Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Tuesday, Some Prompts

A fat alarm clock
A fire is lit
A hedge
A hotel room in New York City
About to sit down with my half-pint of Guinness
And always tucked his daughter up at night
And the flesh of each other
Blue-backed, silver-bellied, half-imagined things
Brought back to me that September evening
Chanting, chanting
Drawn like a moth to the darkened black room
Dumb as a cloud
Her parents love her eyes, how hard she works
His donkey-jacket on the kitchen chair
I am sailing the world
I cannot speak to you.
I died first, I think
I thought we were sitting in the sky
I took myself on for the hell of it
I'm trying to remember as best as I can
Irish Daisies, Yorkshire Nightingales
It begins as a house
It's almost impossible to be here, you kneel
Later he moved quietly to deeper sleep
Light through trees
Like a dwarf on stilts
Men hurrying back across the river
My father decoded the world
My father, drawing the fire
My fellow inmates praise him
Nothing has turned the wood
Our baby's heart, fluttering
People stop me in the street
Right into the mountain
Rockall, Malin, Dogger, Finisterre
She moved him to the hospital
Sometimes in autumn
That other country? Where was it?
The boat chugged up to the little stone jetty
The doors between the days fall open
The past fades like newsprint in the sun
The Unit
The village gossiped
The voices carry from everywhere
Then dusk, and someone calls
Then I gave myself a fright
We were joined at the hip.
When all this is over, I mean to travel north
With ten minutes to kill and the whole place deserted
You do not scorch the sheets or wake your wife
You wonder if it's lovers

Monday, 29 October 2007

A BC Thread

Recently a Boot Camper asked, "Does anyone else get scared?"

He was asking about writing from the deepest parts, how scary it could be.

My first answer was: it's a straight choice. How honest do we want to be? How true? I am only happy when I feel my work is lifting a rug (5% of the time, tops)

Later said:

It ISN'T necessary to directly use your own experience, however painful, however true, or deep or "drama-worthy"

And if you DO directly use something, it's IRRELEVANT whether it's therapeutic, makes you happier or sadder

What matters is the TEXT and what it brings to others

It doesn't matter AT ALL whether 100% of Ballistics is factual, only that it's TRUE. It can be true even if it's 100% fiction.

When you use "your past", your own pain, your own memories, really, the THINGS aren't all that important. What's important is the feelings, and what the events whether directly or indirectly used, SAY, make us feel.

If I use a personal experience directly and try to stay "accurate" I will lose truth. The world and exact accuracy usually kills message.

And later:

Lots of these things are hard to prove, but think like this.

When "a little brown dog" starts glowing, some memory or link to memory, either some maturing part of you thinks it's ready to discover, or some older part of you maybe wants to relieve an internal pressure, BUT THAT IS JUST ONE THING (presume for simplicity)

I suppose it's possible that the conscious and unconscious brain between them choose one single item. one discrete memory, but is it likely?

My belief is that the more we right, the more we try to unfuzz our history, the more we "go there" (I mean in that drifting, available, state) the more things might start to emerge.

The idea that I might isolate ONE and one only (one that might "REFUSE" to ever come out) seems crazy.

When memories and ideas come make sure that at least the emerging tip is not lost. RECORD THEM ALL.

many things may happen her

Example you are imagining/believing that this memory of a squashed cat REALLY MEANS SOMETHING but last week you remembered a
snippet of a song, or an image of an old radio, or someone's shoes, or a car. I have no idea. MIGHT IT NOT BE THAT THE CAT WAS A WAY IN BUT NOT THE KEY? Might it not be that one of you "lesser" ideas/memories will, in the end be more important?


And later still:


Do NOT presume that all this "must be" an unearthing of your specific past.

It does not have to be YOU or something that happened to you.

Example. Imagine that once you saw, as a kid, a kid getting bullied. You vaguely noted it. It was "gone." Years later you also vaguely note that the kid committed a heinous crime or suicide, or became famous or rich (it doesn't matter). MAYBE you realised the two were the same. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you connected the two bits, connected the relationship, the cause-effect, maybe you didn't.


so a thing might be part of our personal history, first hand

a thing may be part of our history second-hand, ie seen and heard in others

a thing may be part of our psyche THIRD hand, a news report of the above, a book, a play

a thing may, arguably be part of us FOURTH hand, cultural, like "paedophilia" and peadophiles loom so much larger in consciousness these days than they did when I was a kid... or "save-the-planet" or back in the sixties-seventies the fact that most of us went round half expecting a nuclear holocaust.

So memories do not HAVE TO relate to bad or good things you did or had done to you

Now whether or not you have a Hannibal Lecter past or lived with Jesus and ate honey and ambrosia every morning and your shit came out in perfumed bags, you conscious and unconscious pick up EVERY DAY the subliminal links to millions, billions of incidents.

When you read Alex Keegan you read (somewhere in there) HIS past, some of his sensibilities. How much of Dickens' psyche lurks in the bowels of his books... so the more we read and write the more we slowly accumulate "pressures"

if you read a current-vogue book about someone being abused, read absorb, "forget" how do you know, even if your life has been perfect, that this little nugget won't be eating away at you colouring your view of possibly EVERYTHING until you die?

We have many lives now. We absorb from news, poetry, shorts, novels, plays, films, video, TV, the web, in a way people never dreamt of even fifty years ago

but note this... what tweaks you, what sticks with YOU, does so because you are particularly susceptible, receptive to that image or idea

THERE'S A REASON FOR THAT and that's why you have to take an instant snapshot of the "thing" put it on a whiteboard and keep it alive.

If not, if for example, your psychic guardians 'don't want you to know" it will be gone, probably forever in 24 hours.

Think of it as a little fall of mud outside a cave. Mark the spot before mud covers it up.

But remember that it is not "inevitable" that the event or memory or feeling energising this connection is SPECIFICALLY something that happened (physically to you). It might be a combination of things. You might never have been touched by the creepy paedophile from next-door who hung himself when you were thirteen, but maybe you heard his name once when you were out drinking with the office-girls and a childhood friend went white, you FELT.... but the group were playing X and now when you hear X you feel torn, twisted.

It could be anything (or nothing, just an accumulation of juxtapositions and pressures from images, words, ideas from your reading/watching.

If demons made someone write Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Apocalypse Now and hundreds of others, what happens to US when we watch them (even if we laugh)? IF those writers were exorcising their demons (if) what do we absorb?


So... I access a feeling, a hurt. a memory and I write about something else.

Yes, that's one way. Often directly writing about something merely energises the defences and we get shut down, anyway. But if we can sense the ache-pressure-fear-disgust (or exquisite pleasure) and find some literary outlet that seems to reflect the feeling, it may well be that what we write will be suffused with the "power" of the partly-unearthed memory.

Say I had walked in on my mother fucking the neighbour and not only that but she looked horrible, told me to fuck off (and then extrapolate)

Yes it may be possible to one day unearth the actual memories and write about them as fictional or actual autobiography but often these writings fai because the memories are bitty and we obsess on the missing parts "wanting to tell the truth"

But if, from the feeling we write about a parent betraying a child, a FICTION, we then can use the pain we felt.

Later someone asked, about these recorded "cues", should they keep one warmed up, ticking over, or should they have many?

Of one I said:



I have many things on the go so the one that wants to can begin to fester and expand. Second two things or more may choose to interact.

Note the verbs. the thing wants to, the thing chooses

NOT the author

One BCer posted this:

It might be worth reading this article which Alex posted on the BC blog.

It came from the notes from a Kingfisher Barn course a couple of years ago, and talks about using half-memories:


and then


Note, I am not trying to write (or post) "perfect" articles. I believe that we don't learn so well from the perfectly-formed, but learn better from bits-and-pieces, spontaneous responses which generate questions and then, hopefully, answers.

Thursday, 25 October 2007


A rat crept softly through the vegetation
All day, all night, all weathers
April is the cruellest month
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks
Everyone suddenly burst out singing
Footworn and hollowed and thin
For I have known them all already, known them all
Groping along the tunnel, step by step
Had we been lovers
I believe there were no flowers then
I have come from the borders of sleep
I lay with my young bride in my arms
I lent upon a coppice gate
I love it as a child might love it
I see the image of a naked man
I thought we were sitting in the sky
I was much further out than you thought
It was after the war
Let us go and make our visit
Love without hope
Move him into the sun
No one is twisting her arm but there it is
Nothing but wild rain
Now it is autumn, falling fruit
Once we had toys, pretty toys
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me
Ten minutes to kill
The darkness crumbles
The fascination of what's difficult
The flood subsides, and the body
The staggering girl
The trees are in their autumn beauty
The troubled midnight
The voices carry from everywhere
The whitewashed wall
The words we have for things that die
There is one story and one story only
There will be time, there will be time
They sing the dearest songs
This is my first time here, a stranger
Turning. And turning and turning
We are at the races now
We drank coffee, talked for an hour
We hired a private nurse
We shall pick his bones, whisper
When she rises in the morning
When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Why have you made this life so intolerable?
You did not walk with me
You would not know him now

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Wednesday Prompts

A broken flower-stem, a broken vase
A man riding horseback raises dust
A thousand mountains without a bird
At last his guilt became apparent
Autumn in California, mild, anonymous
Before the end they chatted with friends over a glass
Careless for an instant How we edge away
Clean, white, starched sheets
Flung across a room An old man, black face
Four or five years ago Romance never returns
From the scrotum of the Yak
He doesn't care he looks strange
He let tears fall and wandered off alone
He speaks from the corner of his eyes
Hours are a small thing A lighthouse
I am a man with few ambitions and no friends
I can stare at him, ashamed, shameless
I have a standing order called "surrender" in case of war
I have surrounded you, I was as cold as stone
I must go back to her, to her embrace
If only we could throw you away
It is impossible to see anything
It is your loneliness, not mine
My head, my shoulders, my arms
Night came and they became more anxious
Nobody knows what love is any more
Pedro has the shoes
She poured the tea. Vaguely I watched her hands
She's big, and big, and full of love
So whisk me off out of here and down some road
Sympathy comes between shit and syphilis
The day before he died Rising from the toilet seat
The ebb run and the flood flow
The isolation hospital Suicide isn't always easy
The morning changed grew chilly and transparent
The nervous hum of danger
Then stand, say nothing; nothing you believe
Then the lights went out Unpacking
This was once an innocent country
This was the end of a man who also died
Twice daily, maybe thrice. It depends on luck
Under a winter streetlamp near a bus-stop
We banged on the pipes, but no-one knew the code
We beat it shitless
We know what's funny and unfunny
We look for communion A wind is blowing
We slept naked, on top of the covers
When I grow up I want to be connected
When she was still alive, we often walked

Tuesday Prompts

Only the Lonely

Long, thick, creamy fingers

Bloodless coup a real letdown

Pressing the smoothness out of cushions

Leaving Birmingham behind

It pulses sometimes. It throbs.

Bob Marley rises from grave

The bathroom on the bus is Out of Order

The boy with a sparrow in his hand

Friends Reunited

A difficult woman

Night at the end of the tunnel

Monday, 22 October 2007

Monday prompts

Sad stories of the dearth of kings

Moods of the Sea

In the footsteps of courage and catastrophe


He did not lift the sheet

Four Cows


The year shifted a little. The blossom fell.

Lit only by a sunbeam


The smell of the unburied dead

The peacock had gathered its courage


Warning my father


You are History. You are Legend


Sunday, 21 October 2007

Sunday prompts

Can you handle the angry?

The bustle of waitresses and the chink of silver on china

The second thing that killed my father off

Saturday morning film club with Angela Dawkins

A sweetness of powder and scented things

He stepped around the pie in the driveway

I wish you'd rub my legs and talk to me

Gospel truth

Everything was swept away


Killing sparrows was the most festive event


Friday, 19 October 2007

Prompts for 20:00

There's some of yesterdays here and some openings to novels.

If there's not something for you here, you're DEAD

At sunrise, the small expedition meets beneath a giant fig tree.
During the war years when I was still in school,
Fear presides over these memories, perpetual fear.
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream.
I am a white man and never forgot it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.
In order to pay off an old debt that someone else had contracted, King said yes when he knew he should have said no.
It was in the summer of 1988 that my neighbour, 71, confided in me that he was having an affair with a 34-year old cleaning woman
Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
My name is William Warlick House, residing at Chokoloskee Island, in Lee County, Florida
On the went, singing "Eternal Memory", and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.
Sea birds are aloft again, a tattered few.
She was deeply embedded in my consciousness.
The day didn't begin well.

A stag, proud as a screaming penis
After all, he was Welsh
An itch
Between you and me
But you, of all people, should not
Cats are contradictions
Chestnuts, Chestnut hair
Cold marble
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?
He was lost in thought as he steered his Sierra through the quiet streets
Hobson's Choice
Horses, snorting, sensing deaths in the field
Human ash is a fine fertiliser
I am considering becoming an astronaut
I count on you naturally I remember, I remember
I dream of gas chambers
I thought my youth would last forever
It's not my vault Let her finish as calmly as possible
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
Moira was in the computer room
My astrologer told me Saturn has been flopped over me like a giant cosmic fried egg
My five senses
No financial disasters
On the whole toads are more interesting than frogs
Of those at the table in the café
Once upon a time there were three little foxes
One for sorrow She must not be anxious
Richmond was a good hour's drive
She could smell it!
Steam spitting from stainless steel pipes
Sybille is in the hands of monstrous crooks
That sweet, watch-baking angel
The air electric The tiny fish enjoy themselves
The buggy lurches in frost-stuck ruts
The first movement is singing
There was a small maiden named Maggie
They get her as little as possible as late as possible
This is a secret final letter This is glorious news
Trees grow like insults
Visiting the poet
Which must absolutely be kept from that angel
Who will honour the city now?
Why soffits are brown, black, white and never pink
You without beginning, you always in between
Your official membership is enclosed
Your sweetness and patience and kindness

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Three Flash Blasts Tonight!!

and the first is at 7PM

(then 9PM and 10:30)

Here's a list

A brief sickness, a need to get to Paris
A cruising milk-float, the clink of crates
A gap between money coming in and money going out
An itch
As I know with my whole heart
Between you and me
Cats are contradictions
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?
Evelyn, dear
First there was silence
I always have plenty of month left at the end of the money
I am a nice, affable woman
I am bored now, with the condescension of my inferiors
I am sending you this little cheque
I cannot ever thank you enough for your generosity
I count on you naturally
I do not want to leave
I gloat and also mourn
I remember, I remember
I thought the Nile was blue, and sane bright yellow
I wanna be a star, I wanna go far
It dripped off though on Octover 22.
It's not my vault
Let her finish as calmly as possible
Let me know if anything grave happens
My astrologer told me Saturn has been flopped over me like a giant cosmic fried egg
No financial disasters
Oh to be in England
On the whole toads are more interesting than frogs
Once upon a time there were three little foxes
One for sorrow
Saris hang on the washing line
She must not be anxious
Sybille is in the hands of monstrous crooks
That sweet, watch-baking angel
The air electric
The small things can ruin one's nerves
The tiny fish enjoy themselves
There was a small maiden named Maggie
They get her as little as possible as late as possible
This is a secret final letter
This is glorious news
Unless I am sure you two are OK
Which must absolutely be kept from that angel
Your sweetness and patience and kindness

And More Good News

Not "Boot Camp" but great news for Joel in Finland who wins a top advertising First Place and cash. October is looking pretty good and the drinks are definitely on Joel.

Next up Matt has been awarded £3,000 to launch a magazine in Brighton. (Please note, should any Boot Campers place in Matt's Magazine they will NOT count as hits.)

Third, yours truly will be judging next year's City of Derby Short-Story Competition. This year's second and last year's second were Boot Campers! Boot Camp stories will not be eligible for the comp.

$500 Second Place for Joel etc

Congrats to Joel based in Finland for his $500 second place in City of Derby's Short-Story Competition

Following are the last few hits. That's a thousand bucks won this month!


142 Joel wins $500 Second, City of Derby

153 Lexie wins HISSAAC $500

154 Tom named shortlist in HISSAAC
155 Jenny Jackson shortlisted at Leaf (and in print anthology)
156 Jason Jackson shortlisted at Guildford
157 DMW's flash "Zombie Jesus: taken by Four Volts Print Magazine

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

DON'T CHEAT. Prompts for 22:00

I'm not feeling brilliant so may not last until 10PM

So here are the prompts

He sold the caravan to a melancholy priest
Kissing old women
A cruise missile passing, just below our balcony
I saw a poodle, crucified
Ten million rooms, all smelling of cigarettes
When you woke, you were more or less insane
The art of losing isn't hard to master
Driftwood blackened by old fires
A year ago I fell in love with a tailor's dummy
Listen to me. I know a lot about melons
We were going to drive to Wales
I inspect her room while she's away
Home is so sad
You passed me as if you hadn't seen, but then you stopped
I think you're an asteroid
Chinese Taxi
My husband and I
Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday
Answering Back
Zurka the pickpocket was sitting on a bench in a Budapest park
It all started the day of Frankie's accident
Lily once told me that…
Is there anything sadder than an empty station?
I met Eric when he was thirty-eight and I was turning forty.
"I'm here to see the owner."
"So, Franco…"
I served in France, you know.
Every morning she comes on deck early.
A Little Pussy
Honey, I saw your note and understand you're a little upset.
David Time's view of himself began at the station platform, his polished boots.
The Moon has eyes, a nose and a mouth
My greeting protocol is faultless
We live in a cabin next to the river
I am obscure, middle-aged, heterosexual and white.
I'm holding Mamoo's hand. I can't stop shaking
He lay in bed listening to the cat-flap clacking
Social Workers!
He was thinking about Michael Jackson again
She writes her name in ketchup
When I got to school this morning there was dogshit all over the grass.
I grew up like any other clown
On Jericho Beach
I'll tell you a story about two soldiers
They tell you a lot about a person, their stains.

Prompts for 20:00

All these years and I still don't understand
Black handprints
But let that wait.
Consider the escaped leopard
Dogs etc
Eggs, unfertilised
Fuck You
Great Britain
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me.
I marinated it in soy sauce and champagne
Jesus Smith, Traffic Warden
King Fred
Lose it before you use it.
May a good wind blow him to hell.
Names so silly they must be made up
Oh for a muse of fire!
Pissing on the flames
Queen Anne
Roasted Hedgehog
Someone tossed a condom into it
He used a lot of vowels
VERILY, verily
XXX Love Hilary
Here I am on the Brighton Line
He's an excellent cook, especially of people
I felt like a quartered chicken
A year ago, I stood at the window, crying
I remember him best with my skin
An unfortunate accident with a circular saw
If they piss you off, shoot the fuckers
I think this is psychologically acute advice
If music be the food of love, what's a boy band?
My suffering left me sad and gloomy
So, while the light fails
The children are exploring by the stream
The naming of cats is a difficult matter
The ship sank
The sorrow will pass but not the conviction
The voices of dead children singing
This book was born because I was hungry
We do not die
To the Indians who died in Africa
Travel is a contrary thing.
We are an old and wise organisation
Well, romance is not unknown here
What we call the beginning is often the end
When I tell you a cat must have three different names
You have proved nothing
You may think, at first, I'm as mad as a hatter
Now that the year has come full circle

Wednesday Flash prompts 1800

In my craft and sullen art
In the undergrowth, a woman's clothing
In which nothing need happen particularly
It can't be October already?
It is the road now, but I know not where it goes
It isn't just one of your holiday games
Later, bikes leaning against an old tree
Lay your head upon my pillow
Let's go, knock on a good woman's door
A deer, trapped, the dogs loose
A sherbert fizz
About suffering…
After that it was a little easier
Alone, the last legionnaire, afraid
Apples, rotten every one
As the door closes, as the dark envelopes
Before, before there were souls, what then?
Black handprints
Brass Band
Bright and early, fine in his intent
But let that wait.
Consider the escaped leopard
Cycling for bluebells near St Mellons
Duct Tape
He used a lot of vowels
Here I am on the Brighton Line
He's an excellent cook, especially of people
His was the first corpse I ever saw
I am not respectable or industrious
I felt like a quartered chicken
I had somewhere to get to
I had to move
I have been walking, walking
I have heard that freedom exists
I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by MFI
I'll come, no matter where you're going
In an effort to keep day and night together
May a good wind blow him to hell.
Midgets demand their cake.
Miss Beatty's Moustache
Mr Justice Gray
My dad just left it by the shed
My mother waits too long
My suffering left me sad and gloomy
Names so silly they must be made up
Not everybody's childhood sucks
Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other
Passing strangers on underground escalators

Flash Tonight?

Boot Camp wil have two flash sessions tonight (Wednesday) at 8PM and 10PM

Prompts will be posted here. Why not try this? Give yourself around an hour and just freewheel, unplanned, driven by some response to one or more prompts.

You'd be amazed. Many BCers get their best work from flash sessions.

Post an answer here if you'd want to join us for the evening


Morning Prompts

A sherbert fizz
After that it was a little easier
Alone, the last legionnaire, afraid
Apples, rotten every one
Black handprints
But let that wait.
Consider the escaped leopard
Duct Tape
He used a lot of vowels
Here I am on the Brighton Line
He's an excellent cook, especially of people
His was the first corpse I ever saw
I felt like a quartered chicken
I had to move
I have been walking, walking
I marinated it in soy sauce and champagne
I remember him best with my skin
I think this is psychologically acute advice
If music be the food of love, what's a boy band?
In an effort to keep day and night together
It can't be October already?
It isn't just one of your holiday games
May a good wind blow him to hell.
Miss Beatty's Moustache
Mr Justice Gray
My suffering left me sad and gloomy
Names so silly they must be made up
Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other
Passing strangers on underground escalators
People die in fires, the unlucky ones live
She giggles and pulls the trigger
So, while the light fails
The children are exploring by the stream
The musky smell of urine
The naming of cats is a difficult matter
The ship sank
The sorrow will pass but not the conviction
The voices of dead children singing
This book was born because I was hungry
This story had a happy ending but it was going to be too long
To the Indians who died in Africa
Travel is a contrary thing.
We are an old and wise organisation
Well, romance is not unknown here
What we call the beginning is often the end
When I tell you a cat must have three different names
You have proved nothing
You may think, at first, I'm as mad as a hatter

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Too Good?

A question to more experienced writers...

Over the last X years I've experienced the black hole which (I think) is between good beginner/intermediate work and serious writing. You can improve the quality, depth and breadth of your short-stories until they become too good to pick up the previously-regular prizes and publications but you're either not-good-enough or not "in" enough to break into the seriously big places.

You start out a wannabee and sub, sub, sub, then begin to hit. Flushed with success you get a higher ratio of hits and in better outlets. You win a lot of prizes.

Then, suddenly, it dries up.

But you KNOW that this story blows away that winner, and that. You're experienced. You edit, judge, critique, teach. Frankly you can now "churn out" the kinds of stories you had to work hard to create (and then won prizes)...

One obvious answer (wrong, but obvious) is that you, as a writer have "disappeared up yer own arse". You fancy yourself, you've forgotten what story-telling is.

EXCEPT THAT YOU STILL DO PRODUCE PUBLICATIONS AND PRIZE-WINNERS It's just that they are casual, "throw-away" flashes or "games" or fun-stories. Easy stories which gratify very quickly and are soon forgotten.

MANY MOONS AGO I always entered three stories in every competition. In Boot Camp we grade stories and give a mark based on craft, the plot etc. I used to predict the following.

The top scorer (the "best" story) would place NOWHERE.

The intermediate story would make the longlist/shortlist/final.

The LIGHTEST, most trivial story would win a prize.

That must have happened for 75% of the competitions I entered.

One possible explanation is this. READERS for comps.

What level of writing and critiquing skill will most competition readers have? If they are "Joe Public" do they seek to choose absolute quality or "an easy read"? The bigger the comp and the larger the entry the more the problem (if it is a problem) is enlarged. Readers have to read fast and often and QUICKLY choose YES-NO... Do they therefore not have the time to savour the more subtle stories or stories that challenge?

Have YOU Blog-Reader sent more than one story in to a comp and found your makeweight winning while your classy pieces disappear without trace?

Second thought is this, especially where readers are beginning/intermediate writers. I bel;ieve that beg/Int WRITERS will choose writing which is close to what they believe they could write on a very good writing day, downhill with the wind behind them. That is they RELATE to this level of writing. It's currently SLIGHTLY beyond them (but not by much) and so they feel good about the work, identify-with/relate-to it.

But send them a serious work, a slightly heavier work or a very talented work that in the next writing year they could not DREAM of writing, what then? My belief is it scares them or makes them angry, or "pisses them off" or "makes them uncomfortable". The quick and easy solution is to reject.

I know in my own reading, when I was developing as a writer, I "rejected" the great writers as boring and pompous, and over-rated. I began to read stuff that was good general fiction (but not literary) because that felt "classy" but achievable.

That is, what I felt I liked and admired was what I could REALISTICALLY aspire to write. I believe now, looking back, that I rejected truly great work because it made me feel desperately inadequate. No way would i write like that (ever) so what better than to reject it out of hand?

I seriously worry that the UK market for short-stories is not a market for readers of shorts but a market for beginning amd intermediate writers. I read many of the magazines and though stories are often competent it is a very rare story indeed that stays with me for as long as an hour.

They are bland, safe, easy to read, quick to absorb.

I believe that if we modernised a Chekhov story or posted a Ray Carver story, or Alice Munro, or Saul Bellow, or William Trevor, or any one of twenty-thirty recognised top names THEY WOULD BOMB IN UK COMPETITONS.

If Boot Camp is having a flash session (usual max time 75 minutes but often shorter) and I join in, bang out a really fast story, sometimes using all the prompts as a challenge... if I remove typos but don't edit, if I send out that rough, there's a very good chance it will win something or place somewhere.

But if I WORK it. If I write, draft, build, sculpt. if I produce something that's ten times more satisfying, then it will take years to place.

And don't think it's lack of editorial skills. On countless occasions I've pointed out flaws in stories (in Boot Camp, in Seventh Quark submissions, in my work editing for payment and do on). I know what I'm doing.

I'll return to this, but would love to hear YOUR thoughts.


NOT Happy

Today has been TORTURE, not very typical of my writing emotions.

Since starting this blog I've become far too aware of process and now I feel it's stopping me writing fresh stuff

Day Seven (Day Three of Year)

001 001,350 Words Story OK
002 001,095 Words Story OK
003 001,025 Words Story OK
004 001,158 Words Story OK
005 000,900 Words Story (Subbed) <<<< GOOD!
006 001,480 Words Story OK
007 000,850 Words Story <<<<<< GOOD!
008 001,491 Words Story part-Done (Torturous Writing)

888 007,670 Words Other Writings

999 017,119 Words TOTAL
999 002,445 Words Daily Average

01 Submissions

Latest on Children in Need

01 Alex, Berkshire
02 Claire, Cumbria, England
03 TomC, Yorkshire
04 Joel, Finland
05 Dan, England
06 Caroline, England
07 Britbird, Brighton, England
08 The Secretary!
09 Colin, England
10 Missy, England
11 Ants, Leeds, England
12 Ralph New Zealand/London
13 Dave Prescott, Herefordshire, England

Tuesday Prompts at 08:00

An artificial tiger
And now look at the results
Dad had gone out in the rowing-boat
Darkness like tunnel walls
Each day we must reckon
Eggs in the cuckoo clock
God is writing a novel
He felt there wasn't enough guilt in the world
He sang the brightness of mornings and green rivers
He wakes, he calls her name
His staring glass eye
I have never visited him in his quarters
I try to imagine "poor"
I went into the bathroom to see
It happened much as he expected, but he was wrong about when.
It was a strange atmosphere on the plane.
Jumping barbed wire fences on an old German motor-bike
Life is a hospital ward, lovers in every bed
Love of art, not others
My mother's wedding ring
Next to her deathbed, a large white fish
Nine months and then you let me out
On top of a wardrobe, his old vest
She screamed for England but lost to a Pole from a dark forest
She was cleaning
Sun. And sky. And in the sky, white clouds
The ankles were tied
We should plan ahead for being dead
Yet you have come here to rescue her
You confront yourself
You had a fancy coffin, go fast stripes

Monday, 15 October 2007

Monday Morning 07:50

Big isn't it?
Blue and Green is not unusual
By the St Lawrence
Dark Blue Jeans, White T-Shirt
Does Your Mother Know?
Early Morning Coffee
Edward was explaining to Carl about levels
Even Better Than the Real Thing
Get Up, Get Up, Get Up
Goodbye Argentina
He always wore one glove, carried the other
He had a heart attack and crashed his bus
Here, have this loaf of bread
I AM communicating with you
I am Old Enough to leave, So I Will
I think it was St Mary's but I'm not going to argue
I'm not DENYING anything
It was in those days when I wandered about hungry.
It's a nice addiction to have
Keep On Running
Learning Kung Fu
Leaving the Yellow House
Looking for Mr Green
Marjorie and Emily Short-cutting to school
Miss Jones wants to make love to me
Potassium Permanganate
Reading Chekhov
Sensible Shoes
She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
Sign Here, and Here, and HERE
Sometimes, I think I can hear him
Standard jewel case
Tears Flowed at the Chapel Funeral
They live in cracks, under, behind
Today we have a fire drills
What Kind of day Did You Have?
Whose side, your father's or your mother's?
Whose turn for the shit
Without Poetry it just isn't the same
A Silver Dish
A theft
A very small bone, broken
Air on a G String
Angel of the Great White Way

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sunday Morning prompts

Handkerchiefs from Auntie Maisie

Memories of Birthdays Past

Recycled cards


Mouth Like a Parrot's Cage

Daddy, I made this for you …


Why Josephine Can't Come to the Party

Annual Excuses

How many candles?

Cardigans and Slippers

The Skin I'm In

Conspicuous Consumption

Four Weddings and a Birthday

Not Old, Merely Mature

The Man Who Saved All His Wrapping Paper


Eleven Children in Needers So Far

One more this morning, 11 so far


One more, Ants Davies from Leeds

01 Alex, Berkshire
02 Claire, Cumbria, England
03 TomC, Yorkshire
04 Joel, Finland
05 Dan, England
06 Caroline, England
07 Britbird, Brighton, England
08 The Secretary!
09 Colin, England
10 Missy, England
11 Ants, Leeds, England

Saturday, 13 October 2007

prompts at a Ridiculous Time

A breakfast egg and Otis Redding
A particularly hard stool evacuated from an aeroplane
At gravesides priest will say, "I don't give a fuck."
Bad dreams of old cars
Cream Crackers
Fish and chips on winter nights
Girls in bikinis, moonbathing
How she sews.
I have, here, in my pocket…
I want to paint murdered kings
I was born in the village of Much Bickering
If I was ever faithful
It's not true, there ARE intelligent women
Jeffrey Archer, Poet Laureate
Kill the thing
Moths and Lamps
My father planting potatoes
Negro postmen, money, dreams
Old poetry books turn brown and make me remember sadnesses
On a tour of public lavatories
Pick yer Paris Tunnel
Please don't put out the light
Quickly, Press
Schoolgirls waiting at a crossing
Since there is no help, let us kiss and part
The dead will quietly bury the living
The first daffodils of autumn appear
There it is, word for word
This line of thinking brought me back to his letter
Tonight at noon
Truth limits man
Untamed Danish Pastries
We are waiting for the end of eternity when this guy turns up shouting
When the leaves fall upwards to the trees
When the room is emptied, heat remains
When vegetables retreat
X marks the blemish
Yesterday I believed

Friday, 12 October 2007

Friday Prompts 0800

Clarity is brief, the world is mostly dark confusion
Clothes not immediately in use etc.
Do not stand at my grave and laugh
First rehearse the easy things
Fish understand
He slept with his suitcase which didn't snore
he was knocked down by a rabid dog, bitten ten times
Hendre Hall
Hide behind trees, climb into wardrobes
His rapid growth has left him less rugged
I have been walking by the harbour
I have purchased Tom a low steamer trunk
I should like very much to have him keep it under his bed
IF they build a by-pass
My nephew was in Germany and had a terrible time.
Night reunites the house with silence, death walks
Not the memory but remembering
Now nothing is scattered, nothing divided.
Tell lies: I love you. I'll be back in half an hour. I'm fine
That was his favourite chair, that his book
The abdominal muscles are still weak
The dogs have stopped barking
The sky is deep but welcoming
Tom's sister died in just such a pool
Unless it is an infringement to the rules
We don't know why Brownlee left, only that he is gone
We have a prejudice against quarry ponds
We hope, in a few years, he will be completely normal
You wake up taller, the day presses you down

Thursday, 11 October 2007

CIN Update

We now have TEN. We'd like FIFTY

01 Alex, Berkshire

02 Claire, Cumbria, England

03 TomC, Yorkshire

04 Joel, Finland

05 Dan, England

06 Caroline, England

07 Britbird, Brighton, England

08 The Secretary!

09 Colin, England

10 Missy, England

Thursday Afternoon Prompts

We should have been gallopping on horses
Chocolate Eclairs
Their hooftprints splashes of light
Red Wine
Hauling up lobster pots in a wake of sparks
We should have been doing more with our lives
She ate monotonous food and thought the world was flat
If I knew, I'd SAY
A card game where a nose was broken
A wedding where the bride punched the groom
or a child's purse full of anything
A few peanuts, an orange
Stop all the clocks
A wristy buisness
They have dragged the river but my heart is still missing
A one-legged man always puts his best foot forward
Did you say gas?
Father, brother, husband, lover, friend
I smell his shirts, the toilet seat is always down
Since you died, I notice things
After the hospital rang we sent Dad's stuff to a jumble. It was a wrong number
Cars white with frost
I don't feel well
The vacuum-cleaner sulks in a corner cupboard
I expect him many minute now

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Fresh Prompts

Billy Fucking Bremner
Dai K lives at the end of the valley
Eventually it feels like Ireland
Everyone hates the English (and so they should)
From Wales, the mostly English sector
He said I had a servant's soul and spat into the grate
He seemed like a hollow oak-trunk, covered in ivy
I had a coffee, one coffee, with Marilyn Munro
I live in a spelling error
I thought it made me look more working class
It was your lightness that drew me
My father and mother, my brother, my sister
My six year-old said "bomb". They sent an armoured car.
Old damp soaks through the wallpaper
Sewing machine
She makes a quiet breakfast for herself
She must be from another country
Some say love's a little boy
Three weeks of bad drugs, badass jazz, bad religion
Two fairies skittered behind the bar
We will know who they are by their absence
What are we waiting for, assembled in the form?
What manner of dying is this?
Where a gunshot scatters acres of birds
Yes, that is the door and behind it they live

Eight Signed Up So Far

01 Alex, Berkshire
02 Claire
03 TomC, Yorkshire
04 Joel, Finland
05 Dan, England
06 Caroline, England
07 Britbird, Brighton, England
08 The Secretary!

CIN Night Diary

TomC recorded his experiences of CIN night last year


CIN Night Sign-Ups

We already have:

01 Alex, Berkshire, England (Writing for Wales!)
02 Claire, ?? England
03 TomC, Yorkshire, England
04 Joel, Finland
05 Dan, ??? England

99 The Secretary!!!


For the last few years Boot Campers have joined with other flash-writers to write their hearts out and raise money for UK Charity "Children in Need". Last year I said "Never Again."

Never say Never!

CIN Night is Friday November 16th but we have a lot of practice nights!

The basic format is this. people sign up to write as much as they can (shorts, poems, articles, flashes) between the hours of 6PM Thursday and Midnight Friday (15-16 November)

They do so inspired by emailed prompts which also appear on a few sites.

The prompts will be posted on a one-hour cycle and a 90-minute cycle.

A number of members attempt the straight thirty hours, others 24 Hours, some do both evenings from 6-12,

What is important is that THE GROUP is active for the thirty hours.

We tie up with magazines who print the best stories and we also produce an anthology either in-house or via a publishing house. Two years ago LEAF produced the work in an amazingly short time.

Many of you reading this will know of "CIN NIGHT", how it works and the amazing work it produces. We are still getting "hits" from work written for CIN last year. For some reason the intensity and craziness produces a lot of very very good work!


Entry itself is £25 or $50.

This is broken down as follows.

£10/$20 for Children in Need
£10/$20 for a prize fund. 100% payed out.
£5/$10 for a single copy of the anthology (overseas post extra)

We also ask participants to raise sponsorship independently. Two years ago we raised over £10,000 and we would like to beat that this year.


It's a big challenge, very exciting and demanding.

It teaches you something, that stories WILL come and they will surprise you. More than a few participants have told us that they wrote their best work ever in the 30 Hours of "CIN"

You have a life-experience.

You raise money for Children.


We raise the troops. Nobody is registered without the payment as otherwise we get a lot of "time-wasters"

We open up some forums on line for practice nights

We practice (many practice stories are sold)

Some choose to meet up in Newbury at Kingfisher Barn for group-support on the night.

We post actual totals raised, and projected sponsorship amounts


You get prompts every thirty minutes. use them as you see fit.

You forward stories to the secretary so that they are anonymous, unnattributed.

You write write write.


The group works on line reading and rating flashes to shortlist them down to 50/100/150

The stories are rated "author-blind"

The magazines/publications read (say) the top 100 and select from these, award a prize.

Previously this was done by "Eclectica' a top ezine.

We also produce the paper anthology which will of course be for sale.

Last year we sold 500



To join us email Alex at

alex.keegan (at sign) btinternet.com

Payments can be made by bank transfer, UK cheque or PayPal

Please note the bulk of monies raised (the individual sponsorships) go direct to Children in Need as we have no desire to handle tens of thousands of pounds. We only deal with the entry fees.


Prompts 07:17 Wednesday 10th

A one-eyed troll in front of a joyless fire
As we fall into step I ask , "A penny for your thoughts?"
As we made love for the third day running, as it rained and rained
Because you didn't go. It's because you never left.
Deep, far off, in the strangest pits
Eeney Stannit!! Eeney Stannit!!
For this, and this reason only I will return your deposit,
He finds the public phone is vandalised
Her lightness drew me, after so many heavy, dark days with you
I feel extremely disappointed that you have to lie and hurl unfounded accusations.
I have put the dogs out, hosed away the shit
I trust we need have know further dealings from this point forward.
If, at your desk, you put aside your work
In front of the mirror in my parents' room
In the middle of the night, if we got up
it is my house, yet one room is locked.
It will be sent to you in the form of a cheque.
No sacred amulets, just a memory of fields in spring
Pity is for the moment of death and the moments after.
Prams, supermarket trolleys, mattresses
Sea-fog, gunsmoke
Since you left, since you left, why, better, better!
Suddenly, after the quarrel
The next day I am almost afraid
The point is how to find a use for anger, like in Monsters Inc. but that was fright.
They are at that stage where the desire that comes between them is obscene
They were queueing for their pensions. It came out of nowhere.
What do you think of my hat?
While the room's stillness deepened, deepened
You gave, and now you say you're poor.
You make a noise like a dog dreaming.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Tuesday 9th Prompts

Children, fresh as new candles

I am not making a fool of myself

I heard a man shout "Jimmy!" across the street

District & Circle

Escalators, ascending, descending

Corpus Christi

I first learned to swim in my father's study

Long fat summer

You saved me, you ought to remember me

I come from my childhood

At the lake's edge a young man whoops and throws his hat in the water

In the schoolyards, in the cloakrooms, children

The landscape flowed away

He knocked downy soot through the bars of the grate

A wooden turtle

My daughter and me, a manatee

His khaki tie was perfectly knotted

Spring has been postponed

In Kosbad, during the monsoons

In my dreams I have two legs, two arms, you love me

My granny read my future, then left the room in tears


Monday, 8 October 2007

Monday 0800

The machinery of grace is always simple

Snow on the roof

The effortless gadgetry of love

Even before I've left I long for this place

Only by moving do we balance

"Missing you already"

I walk with ladies who throw stones

He was walking where he knew it was safe

So much agility. desire and feverish care

Blown downward to the dark

Where the old man was run down

daisies, cowpats

The frost is touching everything before the sun

Like old photographs

by dusk, a clearing

Each shadow sticks

Like a freshly cleaned bathroom,

The whine of distant bandsaws, the creak of dying trees

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Prompts for Sunday Lunch

Food, Glorious Food

The greatest of these is pity

Boiled Beef and Carrots

Isidro's bouffant cock

This is a man

Macho does not prove mucho

Stumbling from one puddle to the next

The women in the woods

Jack wears trousers with an elasticated waist

It's a wrap

Dead souls driven before the wind

I know my parsnips

Down the sides of the sofa


The bitterness of pomegranate pith

A catechism for the 21st century

Friday, 5 October 2007

More Hits and News of Old Members

After Lexie won HISSAAC we've now heard that TomC was also on the named shortlist

Jenny Jackson is highly commended at Leaf and goes in the anthology.

Another member is shortlisted at Guildford (Results TBA)

And we've just heard that an ex Boot Camper who was with us for a long time and is going from strength to strength (cliche-warning!) has won a very nice $2,000 prize in a highly-prestigios competition. Result not yet formally announced.

Friday Prompts 0800

I wouldn't say my brother in law was fat


After seventeen pints of lager

I asked my wife to fill in a questionnaire

In his dreams his hair turns into snakes

There are spelling mistakes on the wall

I've been wondering about drowning

My mummy bought me an armadillo, I kept him under the bed


Who the fuck is Jimmy Greaves?


There's a monster in the cupboard

My killer's girdling me

How we fall

The machinery of grace is always simple

What country, friends, is this?

When I wake, the rain is falling.

The difference between a racing bike and an omelette

Death Duties

That Fucking Checkhov

After the fair I'd still a light heart

A sound like lifting an airtight lid

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Thursday 07:30 More Prompts

The safe is forgotten.

They'll courier it tomorrow.

I know what the Spanish lady means.

The guilt came in waves.

When they lock me up I will hit a guard.

The first time I saw Annie was at the Pacific end of the Eastbound Interstate 80, about midway between San Fransisco and Salt Lake City.

She was crying at the window.

There are more pigs than people.

When I am asked, I say I'm a quiet lad, I pick no fights.

The school sat among maples on a hillside that sloped down to a river.

No it's the same price as last time.

She passed a sun-dark field-worker

Ian had brought fresh crusty bread from the bakery

She dropped to her haunches, waited.

But adrenalin was there now, phtt-phtt; good old flight-fight-fuck juice.

Behind her was the sea, empty sea.

Red light rushed up through her.

The woman stared. Her mouth was slightly open.

After the efficient cleanliness and the painted lines.

A wire-meshed door in the side of a blob of cream concrete.

This was a quieter week.

The doctor has warmed the speculum in her latex-gloved hand.

The chief engineer was a big, self-indulged man, about forty.

inside the restaurant had been shuttered-gloomy.

The Mother Question.

The museum is quite busy, with tourists and school groups mostly.

My mother sleeps.

I wish, sometimes, I could get at my DNA.

I've made the final cut.

Cold. Grey dawn breaking in a silver line. Lobster pots, fishing nets.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Boot Camp's Tenth First Prize of the Year

Lexie wins HISSAAC $500

add on Jason Jackson's small hit

and newbie Matt Plass at Twisted Tongue takes us to 153 Hits for the year

$5, 714 earned