Friday, 24 December 2010


Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

The Committee and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Very Best Wishes for the New Year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

A little bit of weather inspired fun.

In the bleak mid winter
I thought I’d have a moan
For the roads stand hard as iron
And an ice rink we now own.
Snow has laid its blanket
The roads are far from safe
In the bleak mid winter
Kent’s only fit for skates.

Despite the council’s provision
Of grit to scatter about
The roads are all still lethal
And no one’s getting out.
If they had been wise men
A few ploughs they would own
And all us Kentish residents
Would have no need to moan.

So come on council members
While winters come to reign
Do your bit for safety
Until we’re blessed with rain.
In the bleak mid winter
Don’t leave us up the spout
Get your skates on pronto
Or we’ll need digging out.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


I decided it would be interesting to interview some of our members and publish it on our blog. What better time to interview the circle’s chairperson, Hilary Mackelden, when she is marooned in her home due to the snow. But she’s not complaining. Having been rescued by some kind hearted souls when she got stuck out in the wild Sussex countryside, home is now a very good place to be.

Hilary, when did you start writing?

I actually started writing when I was 8 years old. School reports make mention of my short stories and original poetry. But I didn't try script writing until August 2001, when the lady who ran the drama group at Church had a yen to put on a community version of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Since she knew I wrote for the church magazine, she thought I could write the play, because, after all, writing is writing is writing. Right? Right! I rose to the challenge, wrote the script, found I liked doing it and went from there. I've now completed 27 stage plays (some better than others, lol) about 100 short sketches, and 5 full length screenplays.

What inspired you?

My father. He taught me to read aged 3, and he taught me a love of books, films, plays etc. When I discovered my love for writing, I wanted to be a credit to him, which inspired me to study, do my apprenticeship, work harder and reach my fullest potential. Alas he died in 1990, so never saw my successes. I dedicated my first published play to him, and even today, I find myself thinking, "Would Dad think this was any good?"

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Is it all right to have two?

1. Never give up. Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill said that, and he was right.

and 2, which comes from 1 really. Always have another project you're working on. While the first piece is out with agents and publishers, always be writing the next. That way, when they say, "Don't like this piece but like your writing, have you got anything else?" you'll be able to say yes. Which was how I got my first sale.

Do you have a writing routine or do you only write when the creative juices flow?

I try to have a routine, though it's more of a guideline really. I try to be at my writing desk by 10am (after I've checked emails etc) and write through till 1pm. I break for lunch, walk the dog, which is usually a great chance to mull ideas over and sort them out in my head, before coming back and doing more writing in the late afternoon. If I'm not too tired, I'll carry on into the evening, especially if I have a deadline. I do this, appointments and family willing, six days a week.

However, if the muse is nagging, I will sit up and write all night.

Who are your writing heroes/heroines and why?

Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller. Both had an absolute mastery of the English language, and knew how to use the simplest words, and even pauses, to devastating effect. Plus, both had the courage of their convictions and were willing to stand up for what they believed was right.

I also like Alan Bennett, who can turn the mundane into gold, and Willy Russell, who is a very generous man. He taught me, and he was caring, willing to give his time and attention, constructive in his criticism and had a knack of putting right your flaws in such a way he made you believe the suggestions came from you. And such boundless energy!

I'm also in awe of my friend, Rebecca Lenkiewics. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, and yet she's nice and not in the least ruthless. Two years ago, she became the first living woman playwright to have a work performed at the Olivier Theatre, with the play "Her Naked Skin".

If you were to meet one of your characters, who would you like it to be and why?

This answer really changes from work to work, I suppose, since I would always love to meet the main characters of whatever I am working on. But if I had to choose just one, I'd go for Charles Wesley. A few years ago, I wrote a screenplay about John Newton, the man who wrote Amazing Grace, and Charles Wesley came into the story. As I researched, and then wrote him, I really liked the man. He seemed to be like a favourite uncle, the type you'd gravitate towards. His brother John struck me as cold and rigid, Newton himself could be confrontational, George Whitefield seemed a prig, but Charles Wesley was lovely.

What are your goals?

To sell a screenplay in the next twelve months, and to make my entire living from my writing.

In what ways do you benefit from being part of the writers' circle?

The main benefits, from my point of view, are the feedback and constructive criticism I get at the workshops, and the friendship, almost fellowship, with like minded people. The feedback is highly valued by me, and often makes my work immeasurably better. For example, in December's script group, I received some advice on the way my screenplay was structured. I've followed that advice and the script has improved dramatically. In a novel workshop once, someone said one of my male characters sounded like a woman. I mulled that over and within 24 hours I had changed the character into a woman, which created a whole new sub plot and deepened the story.

The friends I've made at the circle are people whose opinions I respect, and with whom I can be myself. They understand the obsession with writing, the dream of making it my job.

Other benefits I've received include the chance to meet many interesting and admirable people, both members and guest speakers. I've met and gleaned valuable tips from Mills and Boon writers, agents, playwrights, novelists such as Jonathan Gash (author of Lovejoy), to mention just a few. And I've had the chance to learn from members such as Rhona Martin and the late Anne Worboys. You can't buy that kind of opportunity.

What is on your Santa wish list?

Health and happiness for my family and friends, and the ability to get my son Steve home before the big day. It would be nice if ALL children could have a wonderful and happy Christmas, no matter who or where they are. I'd also like to see our website up and running very shortly, and an increased membership for the circle over the next few months. And, of course, if he could gift wrap a contract for one of my screenplays, I'd be over the moon.

If the Christmas Fairy waved her magic wand what would you wish for?

It would have to be that a Hollywood headline actor read and liked my script and wanted to be in it. The ultimate compliment for a writer is that an actor wants to do their script, rather than they just want a part in any movie and this will do, and having a name attached obviously increases a script's chances of getting made.

You are marooned in the snow on a top of a mountain - what five things would you take with you?

Thermally insulated tent with all the equipment.
Ice resistant pens and paper, enough to last till I was rescued.
My Bible and Bible reading notes.
Food and drink.
Am I allowed George Clooney?

Finish the following ---- Martha made her way to the bottom of the garden. Pushing through the bushes she came into a clearing. She bent down and began to dig .............

with her bare hands at the disturbed earth in the centre. Beads of soil flew past her, rattling as they landed on the hard ground behind her. At first, she made little progress; each time she scooped soil from the ground, more would trickle from the sides of the hole to fill the gap, but after several minutes of frantic clawing, the ground in front of her began to open up until she hit the damp soil underneath. The earthy smell filled her nostrils and clogged her throat, making breathing difficult, and her fingers stiffened in mud gloves but still she burrowed. Her knees stung and her back ached and her eyes smarted and still she dug down, down, down, until she had to lean into the hole to reach the bottom.

She stopped and straightened and fought the urge to cry. "It has to be here," she whispered.



Eldridge Publishing (America)
If We Had Only Known (Adult Christmas Play)
Ashdown Lee (community drama)
Beyond Redemption (Adult Easter Play)
Life Support (Adult Christmas Play)

Lazy Bee Publishing (UK)
Sammy (Small cast Drama)
Price of Firewood (Small cast Drama)
Devil in the Detail (small cast comedy/drama)
The Pied Piper (Panto)
The Three Musketeers (Panto)
Rumpelstiltskin (Panto)
Ahmed and the Mummy (Panto)
Pilgrim's Progress (Community Drama)
Some sketches for Church services.

You can actually see a list of all Hilary's stage plays at

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


On Wednesday 8th of December, members of the Tunbridge Wells and District Writers' Circle braved the elements to attend the circle's Christmas party. Held at the Spread Eagle in Hawkenbury, we partook of drinks and buffet.

It was a good evening. It was good to meet friends old and new and share in the spirit of the season.

Hilary and Karen both performed plays that they had written.

Hilary’s enthusiastic traffic warden thought it fit to clamp Santa’s sleigh on his busiest night of the year. However he was very lucky he didn’t get charged for drink driving.

Karen’s snowman was rather high maintenance for a garden ornament, demanding a contract, personal insurance, public liability insurance and a snow queen companion.

I would like to thank all those who attended and for those who encouraged friends and visitors to come along - a big thank you to you also.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Thank you to David, (writers' circle member) for his contribution to the blog. Here are some of his Haiku inspired by the month of December.

December Haiku

Crisp snow underfoot
Crunching like wrapping paper
My White Christmas gift.

A bright star shining
Children's heads draped with tea-towels
Mothers' hearts aching.

An ocean of smiles
Chorus of children’s voices
‘Oh no it isn’t’

The cocky robin
Puffed red chest now deflated
Don't argue with cats

Skaters on the ice
Swimmers circling below
Two worlds colliding

Breath made visible
Swirls through scarves over noses
from lips flushed crimson

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


December is here and with it the snow. I hope you are all staying warm and safe.

December is such a special month. I always think it inspires so much creativity. Card and decoration making, baking, pantomimes and nativity plays are just some examples of how the creative juices flow during the build up to Christmas.

I wonder what inspires you to put your pen to paper - finger to keyboard? It might be a song, a picture or a conversation that you have over heard. Not that I'm encouraging you all to eavesdrop, I must add, but these little snippets we catch on the train or sitting in a cafe provide us with a window into another life. A life that can be creatively developed into a character or plot line for your writing.

Today we only need put our nose out of the door to be inspired. You might feel you want to write a poem to capture the snow in all its pure beauty. Or perhaps a short story highlighting the problems it can cause - like commuters stuck on a train for the night in Orpington. The possibilities are endless.

So in between stocking your cupboards ready for the celebrations, hanging decorations and getting paper cuts from all the present wrapping, I encourage you to write in your journals. Jot down all the images and ideas that pop into your head. These are so useful for providing you with fodder for your writing at a later date.

Why not write a flash fiction piece using December (and all that it entails) as your prompt. Send them to me at and I will post them on the blog.

Below is a story I wrote last December, inspired by all the snowfall.

A White Christmas Love Story

Blizzard’s time on this planet was short - he knew this. From his birth to his final farewell – those precious moments, where he could look out from his beady eyes and down his long carrot nose, and wonder at the brilliance of life, were to be savoured.

All about him the earth stood hard as iron, buried under a brilliant dazzling blanket of snow. And there was a peace – a pure quiet – that was perfect to his ears. He stood, like a winter monument, observing this place and its inhabitants as the soft flakes of snow floated to the earth like sieved icing sugar. The air was clean and cold, as all around him, froze in the quiet anticipation of the season.

But Blizzard was not cold, for his heart was burning with love, for the Christmas Snow Queen, that stood beside him, in quiet companionship. And how could he not love her, and stand in awe of her perfect beauty. With relief, he noticed she watched him, with eyes as deep as the driven snow and as translucent as glass, and the story they told, comforted him, in the knowledge that she too mirrored his feelings. He prayed that their romance would last, that it could withstand the elements. He sent his arrow prayer to the snow clouds, beseeching them to remain above them and sprinkle their love with white diamonds – the fuel they needed to survive.

And there they stood, watching their children - their creators - playing. Amidst the screams and squeals of laughter, as both parent and child, they observed the children’s glee, as they kicked up the snow in wondrous joy. Their parcels and presents forgotten in this Christmas dream come true.

As Blizzard’s heart burned with happiness, the first dreaded rays of sunshine broke through the snow clouds. He felt the first snowdrop fall and run down his long nose, to catch in the warmth of his woollen scarf. He looked at the snow queen he had come to love, and she returned his gaze, not daring to take their eyes from each other – time they knew was precious. He watched and felt their life force slowly trickling away, and in recognition of their feelings, they let their droplets unite and mingle into a pool of pure love. Better to have loved –Blizzard thought, as their final droplets seeped into the cold earth.

The White Christmas was over.