An Exquisite Corpse

The Exquisite Corpse is a fun little writing exercise to explore with a bunch of like-minded friends. It’s a bit like Chinese Whispers. The first person in the group writes a short piece—say 200 words. Then passes it on to the next person, who contributes their own bit. Here’s the fun bit—no-one ever sees anything but the piece immediately before theirs. This inevitably means the story takes some wild twists and turns, almost always deviating crazily from the original idea.

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2022 – The Year We Come Back

Slowly, like the bulbs in the lawn, like the buds on the tree, your pals at Reading Writers are poking our noses back out into the world. Maybe this is the year we finally return to some sort of normality—whatever that may mean. As we hit the midpoint of February, we thought it might be nice to provide you with an update on our adventures so far.

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Merrily We Roll Along

Yes, we’re still here. Since our last update, the general consensus has been—the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Like many writing groups across the planet, Zoom has been the lifeline which keeps Reading Writers going. After an abortive attempt at hybrid meets in September with some members in physical attendance at the RISC, we slipped back into virtual gatherings. And plenty of them! Although our AGM and Christmas party wasn’t the usual raucous affair, we still managed to drink and do a quiz and even wear lengths of tinsel as scarves. We know all about glamour!

While the post-Christmas break would normally see us all going our own ways, the inevitable lockdown brought us back together for a couple of smaller ad hoc meet-ups. Chat and writing exercises were a merry distraction from the dark days of mid-winter, and led to some interesting pieces.

We’d like to share one of those with you. A bit of work from our Regency Queen Julie Roberts, based on a series of prompts.

Which were: New Year, cactus, daffodil, hand cream, chocolate, beach

Into The Future 2022

Winter’s season is a kaleidoscope of nature. The robin does not abandon our gardens, the red kites circle over the woods and fields hunting for a meal, the evergreen trees stand laden with leaf in gardens and woods. I have a potted holly tree that I care for, she still has her red berries shining in the sunshine. And my faithful gypsy rose brings tears to my eyes as she defies torrential rain, wind and frost, and this morning’s sunshine gives to me her beautiful display of red roses, not to pick but enjoy as nature defines.

Sheltering under a cardboard box is the cacti. I remove this each morning to let them enjoy the daylight and today the sun’s warmth after last night’s frost. In two days, it will be a new year. The outgoing 2020 will be recorded in history as the year the world was united, not in glory, but disaster. A killer virus more deadly than the Great Plague of 1665. But four centuries later science is our salvation. Vaccines that will, with all our prayers, devotion and determination bring our world into 2022 better, wiser and united into the future.

But on a happy note, I am spending today pampering ME – a leisurely shower, paint my nails and smooth my hands with hand cream that promises to make them look ten years younger. And with the shortest day behind us, I have already seen in the garden the green leaves of the daffodils, encouraging their many shades of yellow trumpet petals for me to enjoy. Later, I shall open a box of chocolates and tap my fingers when I am tempted to start the second layer. And reminisce about the years I have walked along my favourite sandy beach of France’s western Aquitaine shores and cycled along its forest paths in the dappled sunshine.

Thank you, Julie.

What, then, of Reading Writers as we spin into 2021? With a third lockdown in place, we’re sticking to Zoom for the next couple of months, of course. We have a provisional roster of events in place, including a ton of our manuscript nights, two competitions and a couple of guest slots. July and August remain as yet unfilled. We hope that’s the point where we can have our usual summer drinks, meeting up in actual real life, raising a glass to friendship, community and writing.

This week is where it all starts, as we announce the winner of the 2020 Don Louth Award and run a workshop on character. Covid can’t stop us. To quote the old musical number, Merrily We Roll Along.

Zoom in The Room

In a typical Reading Writers move, we organised our first in-the-room meetup since March on the day the government shrunk the numbers of people allowed to gather in one place by a factor of 5. Impeccably done, RW. Yay us.

The meet was a culmination of much gentle negotiation between our usual venue, the RISC, and our esteemed chair, Andy. The RISC wanted people back, of course. Although the bar remains closed until October and will reopen in a very different form (think dry-goods refill store with a little bar to one side) it’s good to have people in the building—and more importantly contributing to the organisation’s survival by paying room hire. All of which we’re happy to do. The RISC has served us very well over the years.

How do we square social distancing guidelines with the needs of the group? There will often be getting on for 20 people at an RW meet, particularly when guests are presenting to us. The solution is to create a hybrid meet—some in the room, some on Zoom.

Zoom has been a lifesaver for the group during the summer months. We’d normally be on break, with a monthly social event in a bar in town. Without that to depend on, we’ve been running virtual events on a regular basis instead, sharing stories and inspiration, keeping each other going during these strange times. We’ve found that Zoom works well for the majority of members. Using emails and our WhatsApp group as backups, the group has been chatting and sharing happily.

Back in the room, there was a certain level of nervousness amongst the RW committee about how well the hybrid approach would work. Andy had wangled a upgrade. We now had access to the Conference hall, which would in ordinary times fit forty people with ease. Under social distancing, we could probably squeeze eight in there. Until the change announced on the morning of the meet, when that number would be cut further.

As it turned out, our fears were baseless. There were four attendees in the big room (Andy, Secretary Meg, Tech Guru Rob and Geek Queen Eloise) with another six joining on Zoom. Rob hooked a laptop and mike to the room’s whiteboard projector, which also usefully had speakers. Everyone could see and hear each other clearly, and the presentation from Social Secretary Gareth on Fantasy went extremely smoothly.

The Room Team even managed to squeeze in a post-session drink at the thankfully re-opened Great Expectations. A pleasingly normal moment to cap off one of our stranger meetings.

And on we go. Our Autumn Competition is now running, we have manuscript nights to organise and guests to invite. It certainly isn’t business as usual, but we’re trying to make it work. We’ll carry on with the hybrid meets for as long as they remain viable, but we believe Zoom is going to be a big part of how we do things from now on.

How we figure out the Christmas party is a whole other question.

News For Summer Break

We’re on our summer hols at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s all quiet on the RW front. Here are a few bites of news, successes and notifications for you!

Reading Writers at Waingels College, Woodley: Thursday 4 July 2019

by Julie Roberts

Julie Roberts and Jarrad Elson represented Reading Writers at the college’s Student Literary Festival.

The school has a yearly project at which the senior students organise and run a chosen event. 2019’s choice was a Literary Festival. Ten visiting authors were each given 20 minutes presentation time on their chosen genre.
Jarrad spoke on ‘Writing for Children’, with an excellent slide show demonstrating his path to publishing his picture book Cheetah the Cheater.
Julie’s presentation was ‘Writing a Novella’ – the challenge of achieving a tight format, and producing a thrilling, fast moving story for her book Dangerous Masquerade.
In addition to the author talks, the students had organised stalls for games, raffles and authors’ books.
The event was a success. A good team building exercise for the students to take on into their futures. Well done, Waingels College.

The following Wednesday, Jarrad and I met to exchange our books to each other – I love the photo.
And on behalf of myself and members of Reading Writers, I wish Jarrad a thrilling and interesting tour of the UK and Europe before he heads home to Australia.

Two very happy Reading Writers!

A plug from Julie Roberts – DANGEROUS MASQUERADE

Summer is rolling along on perfect sunny days.
With this in mind, my publisher has released my novella, Dangerous Masquerade.
When the time is right, and you are relaxing with a glass of refreshing juice or wine, download the story of Evelyn, and her thrilling escapes and hiding places to flee a demanding and forceful lord. And her hero, Giles, is the only one who can save her. But will he be in time?

Get your Georgian romance fix here:

Hunting Hearts gig at Reading Pride

A plug from Claire Dyer on behalf of her daughter Lucy – who has joined us at meetings as an associate on a number of occasions. The plug is for synthwave warriors Hunting Hearts who have a gig at Reading Pride on 31st August:

Some Summer Spam From Our Inbox

• Wells Festival of Literature – 18 – 26 October 2019. A set of talks and events all focused around books and authors.

• NAWG Festival of Writing – 31st August to 1st September. Booking closes 12th Aug. We are a member of NAWG, and each year they have an event for the members with talks, workshops, competitions (too late for most of the comps), etc. It is at Warwick University this year, but sounds like it’s moving venue for 2020.

• We get emails from TAR (Theatre & Arts Reading) who are an organisation trying to aim at establishing a new theatre and arts venue in Reading. Their current want is to run Reading Gaol as a venue for this. If you’re interested go see their website:

• A potential opportunity for short story fans and writers. A new magazine called Short Fiction Magazine is launching in October. They are potentially looking for stories, articles, flash fiction and poetry for publication. They have also offered a potential 25% subscription discount – more details at:

That’s it for now. Enjoy your summer!

NAWGfest 2018 Review

nawg logo

RW recently rejoined the National Association of Writing Groups (NAWG thence), a country-wide organisation of idiots, dreamers, narcissists and delusioneers writerly types. As part of the annual subscription, we’re allowed to enter NAWG’s many competitions with a chance to attend annual conference, the snappily named NAWGFest. Blow us down with a feather if we didn’t hit the jackpot on our first go!

Reporting not very live from Warwick University, Best Poetry finalist Eloise Curtis represents for Reading Writers…

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