All Write on the Night

Led by Maggie, the challenge was to focus on one of the objects pictured. What did it look and feel like? What was its primary purpose? What else might it be used for – thinking outside the box very much required there. Susan was particularly inventive with the old darning mushroom and Peter with the kitchen roll inner!

Next came the challenge to write a limerick or haiku about the chosen object. Several people wrote both and Sheila even added a third poetic form, a cinquain. A break for refreshments was very welcome after all that.

The final task was to draft a short story in which the same object played a major role. No time for polishing, but maybe we shall be hearing some of these at the next session of members’ MSS.

News Flash

Thanks have been expressed to the So! Bar for allowing us to hold meetings in one of their upper rooms over the last few months. Unfortunately noise levels from the floor below and accessibility issues have proved too difficult to surmount. Therefore,  starting with the meeting on Wednesday 29th May, we shall be back at our previous venue, the Jervaulx Room in the St Wilfrid’s Community Centre.

6 objects in search of a story

These items were displayed at last night’s meeting and well in time for ‘their’ session on 12th June. Thinking caps on, please!

A Blast from the Past 2024


This competition is always, as the name would suggest, for writing with an historical theme and this year it was the turn of fiction.

Our adjudicator, Suzanne Stirke, began by explaining that, when first drawn to pick up her pen, she had gone on a short writing course at Darlington 6th Form College.  From there, she was  encouraged to do a University Master’s course in Creative Writing as a mature student. Since then she has written and self-published two books set around Bedale, one about a particular building set in the early 1800s and the other about the resolution of a mystery surrounding that building set in modern times. She is now working on a third book about a local woman called Dorothy Patterson.

Suzanne went on to say what she was looking for in a short story:

  • A beginning, middle and an end
  • Must be concise
  • No irrelevant detail (in a short story)
  • Assume that the reader knows nothing
  • Either 3rd person or 1st person narrative (she didn’t mention the rarer 2nd person narrative form)
  • Not too many characters
  • A good ending.


Turning to the seven entries Suzanne then made her comments on each. The entries were:

  • ‘A Bedtime Story’ – Lotte Wilson – a grandfather tells two young boys a bedtime story based on his own memories
  • ‘Departure and Arrival’ – Joe Peters – a young woman begins to travel the world
  • ‘Great Aunt Tillie’ – Sheila Whitfield – June is sorting out belongings after the death of her husband
  • ‘Private Tom Brownlea’ – Charles Lubelski – a story about a reluctant recruit in the First World War
  • ‘The Big Decision’ – Peter Page – a young Irishman from the Dingle Peninsula decides to emigrate to America around 1900
  • ‘The Fine Aroma of Coffee’ – Maggie Cobbett – a ghost story set in the York Castle Museum
  • ‘The Star of the Sea’ – Susan Perkins – a story about a haunted pub beside the sea in Northern England.


Suzanne then announced the winners as follows

  • Joint Second – Peter Page with ‘The Big Decision’ and Maggie Cobbett with ‘The Fine Aroma of Coffee’
  • First – Lotte Wilson with ‘A Bedtime Story’

Suzanne presented Lotte with the trophy.

After the break, the remaining entries were paired with their authors and accompanied by discussion before Susan invited Lotte and Peter to read their stories.

Suzanne had brought along copies of both her published books for members to examine and there was just time for her to read the blurbs from the backs before the meeting closed with thanks being expressed to her for a much appreciated adjudication.

Change of Date

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Suzanne Stirke’s adjudication of the ‘Blast from the Past’ competition will now take place on Wednesday, 17th April.

News flash

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the talk on comedy writing by Swanwick Writers’ Summer School regular Phil Collins has had to be postponed.

That being so, the meeting on Wednesday, 20th March will now be for Members’ Manuscripts.

We hope to rebook Phil later this year or in 2025.

Poetry Competition 2024

We welcomed Mary-Jane Holmes as our adjudicator this year. She had obviously put a great deal of thought into the task and did a very thorough job. Before announcing her decision, she read out each of the poems submitted and gave a detailed critique. A written version was also attached to each entry for the poet to peruse at leisure later on.

Charlotte Wilson (pictured above receiving the trophy from Mary-Jane) came first with ‘Pond Life’. Sheila Whitfield was in second place with ‘Inland Dreams’ and Kate Swann came third with ‘On the Scales for Grandad’.  Mary-Jane congratulated everyone who had entered the competition.  With a high standard overall, the great variety of themes and styles had made choosing the winners difficult.

After the adjudication, Mary-Jane answered questions about her own work and poetry in general.

From her bio: Mary-Jane Holmes wanders and writes in the wilds of Upper Teesdale. She has garnered many awards including winning the Bridport Poetry prize, the Writer’s Digest poetry competition, the Live Canon Poetry Pamphlet Prize, Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize, , Martin Starkie, Dromineer, Reflex Fiction and Mslexia Flash prize as well as the Bedford Poetry competition. She has  been shortlisted for the Beverley International Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Prize twice. Mary-Jane’s poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press. Her pamphlet Dihedral is published by Live Canon Press and her novella Don’t Tell the Bees, is published by AdHoc Fiction. Her Lockdown poem ‘Letter from Baldersdale’ joins 20 other poems in the National Poetry Archive on their 20th anniversary. Her collection of Flash Fiction was published by V press in 2021 and was shortlisted for the Eyelands Literary prize in 2023.

Her work appears in a variety of publications including Aesthetica. Magma, Modern Poetry in Translation, Mslexia, The Lonely Crowd, Prole The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and in anthologies including Best Small Fictions 2014/16/18/20  and Best Microfictions 2020.

She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford and has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council studentship to complete a PhD in poetry and translation at Newcastle University. UK.

 New Collection of Short Fiction: Set a Crow to Catch a Crow



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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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