Editing Your Work: 4 Easy Tips for Creating Distance from Your Text

Nancy Stohlman


Creating Distance from Your Text

So you’ve been writing lots of cool new stuff and now it’s time to think about revision. When you’re in the editing phase, you must find a way to create distance from your text, to see it with fresh eyes. And it’s not always easy to see your work with fresh eyes—it can feel like looking for your sunglasses when they’re on your head! The best way to create distance, of course, is actual distance. There’s nothing more revealing than a month away from your work. But there are other ways to create distance if you don’t have the luxury of time.

Read it out loud. When you use your ear rather than your eye you can “hear” when the rhythm is off. If you stumble over a word in your spoken delivery, chances are that word is awkwardly placed. If you cut or add words in…

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The Power of Words

Writing inspired by Holocaust Memorial Day Jan 27th, 2018

On February 14th Kirsten Luckins facilitated a workshop for us as part of the commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day. She used a number of activities to help us explore the power of words.


In the first exercise we explored the meaning of our first and middle names (this threw up some surprising juxtapositions) and then wrote a character piece based on the names and their meanings.

What’s in a Name?
Ethel – noble. Elizabeth – oath of God

Ethel struggled to come to terms with her father’s death.
The battle had been long and fierce: three days the armies had clashed on the field; man against man; sword against sword; sometimes hand to hand.
She had watched from her vantage point atop the high tower; her ears assaulted by the tumultuous rage below; sun glinting off the swinging blades sometimes blinding her to the carnage. All around men fell, bleeding, dying; corpses piling up and still the slaughter continued.
Just when the day had seemed lost, her father and brothers led their men in a final charge; a last-ditch attempt to sway the course of the battle; to break the stalemate. Mounted on sweating horses, they charged headlong into the maelstrom. A blood-curdling cry issued from their frothing lips, as they cut a swathe through the enemy ranks.
From her eerie, Ethel bent her head, sending up a silent prayer to her God for victory.
One last push and at last they gained the upper hand. Many enemy soldiers lay dead or dying. Others fled the field, beaten. Her father and brothers dismounted to dispatch the gravely wounded to their final rest. But their kindness counted for nothing, as some of the enemy soldiers regrouped, advanced on the victors with anger in their hearts, and cut them down mercilessly.
Ethel’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle the scream that rose in her throat, threatening to choke her. Victory had come, but at such a cost! Turning away from the scene, she began to descend the staircase to the floors below. Her own grief would have to wait: she was Queen now and her subjects needed her.

Ethel Stirman

Loaded Words

The second writing task looked at the way words can mean different things to different people. We were asked to choose a word from a given list and describe what it meant to us.

Irene chose the word, ‘Egg’.

Egg is,
My fertility
My failure to be fertile
My longing
My need
To conjure up a new life
To hold that life within me
And bring forth that longed for child.
Irene Styles
Wayne chose the word “kettle”.

The Kettle
The kettle, the centre of our existence.
A guest with towels welcomes baby’s arrival
An arm around the shoulder to a loved one
Tin bath filled offering warmth
Resilience against attack
Secrets revealed in plumes of steam
Whistle invokes memories of steam trains and grandma’s Sunday tea.
Wayne Cook
After considering several words, Ethel chose ‘lamb’ as it made her think of innocence and sacrifice.

Katie at three, trusting, giving, feeding new-born lambs.
Cautiously, she holds out the milk,
Holding tightly onto the bottle with both hands as they suck
Greedily, noisily from the rubber teat.
Milk overflows from their mouths, froths on their faces.
I watch, protective, ready to help if she needs me.
Her face looks up, seeking reassurance;
Blue eyes trusting, smile radiant with achievement.
Across the seas in another continent, another world,
A young boy waits; both hands grasping an automatic rifle.
Bereft of parents; claimed by those who had killed them;
Turned him into a soldier, stripped of feeling;
Eyes empty, cowed, robbed of childhood.
Found later, lifeless, discarded by the road.
Ethel Stirman

Life Stories

Finally we were asked to write a response to one of the life stories from the HMD website.

This piece of writing is based upon the account of Wolf Blomfield who lost his mother , family, home and country, during the Holocaust.

I read your story and was moved to tears, I felt your loss.
The loss of your country, your home, the everyday things that made you, a child, feel secure.
I felt your loss, for your father, your hero and protector ….but understood, and hope that you know your loss was born out of your father’s love.
His need to protect the very life that sprung from within his loins.
A life that would carry on the survival of his nation and his beliefs.
His hopes in you as a follower of ‘Yahweh’, finally released from fear and persecution .
His love, his loss, ensured
That you would never have to wear the yellow star, endure starvation
or feel the cold atrocities of a death camp.
Know and understand that your loss sprang from being so dearly loved.

Irene Styles

This poem is a response to the life story of Denise Affonço whose family was forced from Phnom Penh to toil as slave farmers for four years. Her husband was taken away by the Khmer Rouge, never to be seen again, and her daughter died of starvation.

Angkar has torn the words
from your tongue
Your voice is mute in
your native language.

Angkar judges your memories treachery
Your past has vanished in
fading shadows

Angkar has revolutionized
Seng’s brain
You have lost sympathy
with the thoughts of your

Angkar has regimented
the movements of the clock
You have forgotten the measure
of time.

You have become, ye barang,
You are wearing
the mask of submission

But it never
anneals to the
contours beneath
It never
threads poison through
your capillaries
Or tracks and remodels
a geography of your brain.

No, you wear
the false face
of submission
It hides the defiance
in your eyes

By T.H.

*angkar – new power in Cambodia
*Ye barang – old French woman

And finally, a piece simply inspired by HMD.


Perhaps I had become too complacent, the welcome, too-eager relief of the survivor.
Each day we saw the bombers glinting above our city. Like a victory parade, people in the street checked, as the bombs tumbled assuring us an end was close. Perhaps it was a slip of my tongue, saying “we” when I had long tutored myself to say “I”. It would have been enough for a sharp eared “ferret”.
Perhaps, and this I find hardest, some friend had betrayed us. A loyalty sold.
The fists like hammers on the door. “Seeking anti-state propaganda” was their excuse.
Soon books and papers from the shelves were strewn in an avalanche across the floor. The spine of each book was cracked open, the net linen binding ripped away.
The long case clock spilled cogs, wheels, pointers and works and from the inside a rolled up bundle. They opened our national flag. One spat on it, another, grinning, mimed wiping his backside. Then they went to work with their bayonets and tore holes and shreds into the weak dyed cotton.
But all they were doing was having fun, building their little play of suspense, waiting to show how clever they were. All this while they had skirted the piano standing against the brown panelled wall. Ignored it in a very exaggerated way. Surely it was a too tempting target, yet they avoided touching it.
Until, with a smile and a nod, they swung the baby grand on its smooth castors, crashing against the opposite wall. They tore away the rattling tapestry. With the blunt ends of their bayonets they began a pattern of tapping and listening along the panels. Little drum taps before the execution. Their ears caught the hollow echo. They gouged and tore and the panelling splintered into long, broken teeth.
Standing there, framed by the wreckage of the wood, like a reveal in the theatre, was the woman. In a wide-brimmed green hat, long winter coat. She was dressed for the inevitable journey. The old cardboard brown case stood at her feet.
The little girl was clinging to her mother’s coat, her face turned away. The boy stood slightly forward, small hands clenched into fists, ready to defend his womenfolk. The mother bent, lifted the case, put her other arm about the girl and stepped forward. The soldiers had stopped grinning and stood to one side.
Her eyes fixed straight ahead she passed me, suddenly a stranger.

by T.H.

*Dutch term for ‘round up’.

Moving On

February is Post-It Note Poetry Month. The idea being to write a poem small enough to fit on a post-it. The shortest poems, for the shortest month.

Ideally you should write one a day but we are never ones to stick to the rules at writer’s group, so any that you manage is good with us! Feel free to join in and post your tiny poems in the comments. You can take part on twitter or instagram too with the hashtag #pinp18.

Irene is leaving us soon to live in Canada and the process of packing seems never-ending. There is a certain satisfaction in posting her 16 word post-it poem!

Good luck with the packing (it’ll be worth it in the end!) and Bon Voyage! We’ll miss you!

Moving home…..stress, mess
Emotional and physical pain
It’s hard to let go and start again.

By Irene Styles

Drawing out the stories

Here’s an idea to get your creative juices flowing!
Check out this fab project and try a poem or story on change…?

Celebrating Change

As we head towards our winter break, I’d like to thank everyone who came out to our second workshop, including a few new faces – so wonderful to have a roomful of people making memory maps!

I first used memory mapping as a writing prompt at a workshop run by the fabulous Wolf At The Door, and you can find more about the technique in their book Writing Your Way. Basically, you don’t write at all for the first half hour – instead, you create a map of a well-known place, usually a childhood landscape. The ‘map’ doesn’t have to be accurate at all, but can be colourful and covered with sketches, doodles and explanatory notes.


Bit by bit, layer by layer, you add in memories. What did you call the roads and secret places? Remembering your childhood names for things often unearths rich, playful, poetical language…


Then you add…

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​Right up Scrooge’s Street

Being the tale of how Scrooge finally realised he really had reformed.

Of the lost – which is to say abandoned – stations on the London underground, it is Scrooge Street which is perhaps the most likely to be haunted, if you believe in these things.  It lies on a disused offshoot of the City branch of the Northern Line, which was built to serve the vast numbers of workers at the house of Scrooge and Marley, which prospered far more after Scrooge’s repentance of his miserly ways, than it ever did before it. (Dickens naturally missed this part of the story out, Christmas being no time for emphasising the materially enriching possibilities of goodness).

Eventually the firm was obliged to build new offices elsewhere, and the old premises were knocked down. In their place, Scrooge built a row of neat and comfortable houses; one for himself, another for his clerk Bob Cratchit, and the rest given to long-standing employees who had served the firm in the early years of its great expansion.

In more recent times, the land on which the street stands has been much coveted by property developers, who have been prepared to offer vast sums of money for the plot, but those who live there now are protected by the provision in Scrooge’s will, that the road through it must be named after himself in perpetuity; and the authorities in the City, mindful also of the tourist trade, have refused to consider any challenge to this.  Since no bank or other financial institution would (so to speak) be seen dead with a head office in Scrooge Street, the immunity from upheaval the inhabitants enjoy is complete.

Immediately next to the covered-up top of the lift shaft at the station (there was never an escalator) a small patch of land was for many years, Scrooge’s garden.  In his miserly days he had sown it with oats for his porridge, and paid his clerk Bob to reap the grain with a pair of office scissors; these were then crushed in small batches (by Bob again) in the office’s copying press, and after several days’ gruelling labour (gruel being the operative word) enough porridge oats resulted to provide Scrooge with about a week’s worth of breakfasts (hot) and suppers (cold).  It was the reformed Scrooge’s decision to cultivate something else, such as sunflowers and pansies and wallflowers and grass for the children in his newly-acquired or rather newly-recognised extended family to enjoy and play in. It was indeed in the release of Bob Cratchit to more conventional clerical activities, that his business genius first found its way into practice, the rapid growth of Scrooge and Marley thereafter owing a great deal to this. 

One winter’s day Scrooge’s nephew’s oldest boy – aged ten or eleven – an active, practical lad named Tom, deciding to plant a sunflower seed the following spring, and, dibbing a small hole on an exploratory basis, found an unexpected resistance in the earth, and, enlarging the hole, discovered a coin.  He showed this to Scrooge, who saw at once that it was not a British coin with which he was familiar (and nobody was more familiar with British coins than he).  Scrooge therefore took the boy with him to the British Museum, and the coin was identified as Roman. 

“If we dig a hole,” Tom said excitedly, “we might find some more coins.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Scrooge replied, not wanting to have anything to do with digging for treasure, since the activity – grubbing for money in the literal sense – was not a thing he wanted to encourage in the boy, and which he was by no means inclined to try himself – the activity reminding him of his shameful past.

There is nothing like the scepticism of an adult to encourage activity in a child, and it was therefore hardly surprising that about a week later, when Tom visited his father’s uncle again, and while Scrooge was busy baking a chocolate cake for their tea (such was his new-found domesticity) the lad abstracted a spade from the garden shed and set to work.

Nature in the form or wind, rain, earthworms and birds had already eroded the hole made by the dibber so much that only a small depression marked the place where the coin had lain buried.  It was, however, just recognisable, and no sooner had the spade cut into the soil beside it than further resistance prevented it digging any deeper.  

A few seconds later a veritable hoard of coins began to appear.  Tom ran to Scrooge, who was just removing the cake from its tin.

The reformed Scrooge was far to amiable to be angry when the boy told him the news of his discovery, and undertook to examine the new find as soon as he had tested the cake with a knife. When the cake proved to be as easy to slice into as the earth in the garden had not been, he followed the boy as he eagerly scampered ahead.

The coins at the edge of the pile were somewhat scattered, and it took them some time, taking turns with the spade, to extract what seemed to be the last one.  Dark had indeed begun to fall when that one was placed in the wheelbarrow along with the rest.

“I’ll have to go now, uncle,” said Tom. (He called Scrooge uncle, since ‘great-uncle’ was too much of a mouthful, especially when the mouth in question was usually full of things like chocolate cake in Scrooge’s presence).

Tom took another slice of cake and left.

Scrooge remembered that they had not put the spade away, and carefully made his way through the dark to where they had left it, just beside the hole.

As he carried the spade, still caked with earth, to the shed, it happened to pass through a shaft of light thrown by the kitchen window. (It goes without saying that the lights in Scrooge’s house were particularly bright nowadays.)  And in that light, Scrooge saw a round shape protruding from the earth still attached to the spade. It was another coin.

As soon as Scrooge had abstracted it, he heard a loud moan, and, to his horror (the first horror he had felt since his reformation) he saw a bright but somehow sickly light emanating from the hole where the coins had been.

He had seen that light before; it was the ghastly light of the underworld, the light which had surrounded the first ghost he had seen on that unforgettable night, only a few years ago in fact, but which now seemed to him to be a lifetime away.

He was therefore not surprised when another, even louder, moan came from below.  He was, however, deeply shocked and indeed horrified.

The same emotions he felt, only even more strongly, when a ghostly figure appeared from the hole, rising but with no apparent sense of liberation.  Indeed, the figure seemed positively unwilling to elevate itself.

Although it had passed through a hole in the ground, Scrooge was not surprised to observe that its clothing was clean.  He should not perhaps have been surprised that the clothing in this case was a toga, but he was nevertheless.

Scrooge’s previous experience of ghosts had been associated with a sense of guilt, but he felt no such pangs on this occasion, since the discovery of the coins had been by chance, and in the course of making his garden available to his great-nephew.  In these circumstances, he thought himself justified in not making any enquiries of the ghost to begin with, and to wait for the man in the sickly, greenish, luminous toga to state whatever his business was first.

The silence was longer that Scrooge was comfortable with, but the spirit finally spoke.

“I am the ghost of Iacobus Marlius,” the  spectre announced.

“Excuse me,” Scrooge began, “but you don’t much look like the Jacob Marley I knew.”

“I am not the Jacob Marley you knew,” the ghost replied. “I am Iacobus Marlius, the legendary Roman miser.”

“I’m sorry,” said Scrooge, “but I don’t know much about Roman legends.”

“Neither did I,” Marlius said miserably. “If I had, I would have learned about Midas for a start.”  

Scrooge did know a little about Midas, for obvious reasons.

“I though Midas was a Greek,” he observed.

Marlius shrugged his shoulders. As he did so, the sickly green light coruscated so intensely that Scrooge felt nauseous as well as frightened.

“Greeks to us were like Romans are to you,” he explained.

Scrooge thought for a moment. Something concerned him, and he soon identified what it was.

“Are you saying that you were condemned to be a ghost because you found some buried Greek coins?”   

Marlius burst out laughing, but his laughter could not have had less merriment in it. If laughter could be coloured, it was sickly-green with sarcasm. What with that, and the even more virulent coruscations of the toga which the laughter set in motion, it was all that Scrooge could do to hold his chocolate cake down.

“I’m a ghost because I was a miser,” he said. “They became so sick of me in Rome that they posted me to Britannia. It was either that or being handed over to the Vandals in exchange for the Emperor’s third cousin once removed whom they were holding as a prisoner.  So I chose Britain. They asked me to set up a bank. Somebody thought Londinium had possibilities in that direction.”

“And did you?” Scrooge inquired.

The toga blazed green and yellow and worse in all directions.

“Yes and no. I found a building – very expensive to rent for its size, I might say – and I got a sign painted.”

Scrooge had lately taken an interest in art. “What was on it?” Scrooge inquired with curiosity.

Marlius shrugged his shoulders. Scrooge wished that he hadn’t.

“A bag of money. What else?”

“And what happened after that?” Scrooge asked.

Marlius took a deep breath. Scrooge was relieved that the toga barely moved as he did so.

“There was this woman.”

Scrooge resisted the temptation to say ‘there usually is’. He now regretted that he had never married, nor had children of his own, although there was a kindly widow ten doors up on the other side of his street about whom he was beginning to – 

He turned his attention to Marlius once more.

“She was called Bodicea,” Marlius went on.

Scrooge’s knowledge of history was even more deficient than his knowledge of art.

“A nice name,” he said.

Marlius gave Scrooge a queer look.

“She wasn’t nice at all. She was one of your queens. Don’t you know that?”

Scrooge shook his head.

“She led a revolt against us in East Anglia, and then marched towards London. They thought she might drive us out.  That’s why I buried these coins.”

“And why didn’t you dig them up again?” Scrooge asked.

“Because I was dead, that’s why.  I was a nominated hostage, you see.  They therefore took me to the front line in the battle, so if somebody important were captured, they could exchange me for them.  And that’s what they did.”

“But why did they kill you?” Scrooge inquired.

“They weren’t intending to kill me at first. But then they asked me what I did, and rather than tell them I was a miser, which I thought might turn them against me, I told them I was a banker – which I wasn’t really, because I hadn’t banked anything at that stage. And as soon as I told them I was a banker, they set on me.  I’ve since found out on Spookipedia that the British have always had a particular hatred of bankers.”

Scrooge had never heard of Spookipedia, and asked what it was.

“We have a thing called the internet,” Marius explained. “Spookipedia is an encyclopaedia. You do a few things with your computer, as we call it, and you can look anything up. It’s amazing what you learn. Did you know that there are some vampires who recoil from something called Marmite?  And four out of five poltergeists self-harm at some stage? We also keep in touch; we can rattle our chains on a spectral network. It’s called Clinkedin. That’s how I got in touch with Jacob Marley.  We’ve become great friends – not that we’ve ever actually met.”

Scrooge could not help asking what seemed to him an obvious question.

“How long would it take you to fly to see Marley in – if you don’t object to the phrase – in person?”

Marlius thought for a moment.

“About two seconds. Three at the most.”

Scrooge nodded.

And how fast is your – what do you call it – Internet connection?

The ghost considered.

“Shroudband speeds vary. Sometimes half a minute. Sometimes four or five minutes. I once had to try three times, and it took about ten. And sometimes it goes off altogether.  Not that that bothers us. I mean, as you can see, this is quite a nice toga -”

Scrooge shuddered here.

“- I try to keep up appearances.  But if you’d seen the average spectre – not to mention the ghouls – you’d realise that going off is part of our way of life.”

Scrooge remained silent because he did not know what to say. Then he thought of saying:

“Half a minute. Sometimes four or five?”

Marlius considered for a few seconds more than it would have taken him to fly to see Jacob Marley.

“Oh. “I see what you mean.”

Scrooge thought of his former partner.

“Hasn’t Marley said anything?”

The toga flickered stomach-churningly as Marlius shook his head.


“What about anybody else?”

Marlius frowned.  Scrooge was glad to see that he had at least stopped shaking his head.

“To tell the truth, he’s the only contact I keep in touch with.  We seem to have a lot in common.  Most of the others are only concerned with selling financial products. I suppose it’s my own fault for saying that I was a professional miser. Didn’t want to risk calling myself a banker again. They have these things called algorithms, whatever they are. The network, I mean. But, as I said, it can be slow. I suppose I could change my provider. I’ve heard Haunt Haunt is quite good…”

His voice tailed off.

“Why are you here?” Scrooge asked. “And if the idea doesn’t distress you too much – now?”

Marlius returned to both.

“Here because my coins were here. Now because you found my last one. On your spade there.”

“Do you want them?” Scrooge asked gently, and, he felt, almost needlessly since he was sure that the ghost’s interest in them was anything but pecuniary.

The spirit shook his head.  Scrooge almost vomited, and made a mental note not to ask any further questions requiring ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer.

“What use is money to me?  And in any case our coins are ten a penny.”

Although that wasn’t what the man in the British Museum had told him, Scrooge said nothing.  He nowadays felt that it was vulgar to talk about money, and that being the case, it would be even more vulgar to talk about money in relation to money.

“There must be Roman coins all over the place. Not in piles, I admit, but individually.  Thousands and thousands of them.  No civilisation in history, I tell you, has ever been, or ever will be, so careless with its small change.  All due to our relative lack of inventiveness. I’m sorry to admit it, but it’s the truth.  Spookipedia mentions this specifically.”

Scrooge was puzzled by this, and was gratified to see that Marlius appeared to have noticed, since he explained at once.

“Take the matter of numbers.  Our numbers are, to put it kindly, all over the place.”

Despite his general ignorance of history, Scrooge knew Roman numbers perfectly well, these being displayed on (among many others) the clock in his office which he watched so closely before his repentance, not on his own account, but to see that Cratchit always arrived on time and never left early.

“Your numbers are still all over the place,” he said. Not only clocks, but public buildings and -”

Tombstones came to his mind, but he thought it best not to mention them, and fell silent.

“I bet they’re not in any place where you have to add them up,” Marlius observed sarcastically. He took a deep breath.

“And then there’s the pointed arch. Pretty obvious, you might think. But we never invented that. And can you see something else we didn’t invent?”

He rustled his toga, which almost caused Scrooge to faint.

“Is there something you can’t see?”

Apart from being unable to see the prospect of eating anything ever again, which he sensed was not the point, Scrooge could see nothing.

“Well,” Marlius explained. “Can’t you see that we never invented the pocket?  That’s why we were always dropping coins all over the place.”

“I see,” Scrooge said.  “Can you possibly explain something else to me?”

“Well, if I can,” Marlius said. “If I don’t know the answer, I’ll look it up on Spookipedia and I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“It’s not that sort of question,” Scrooge said hesitantly. “What I was wondering is – why are you here – apart from the fact that I found your last coin. Were you trying to tell me that, so that I won’t waste time looking for any more? If so, that’s very kind of you, but -”

He did not know how to finish.

Marius did not seem to know how to start. Scrooge could see that there was something, though. At length Marius spoke.

“I was trying to help you, yes.  It’s not something I’ve ever done before. Jacob Marley recommended you.  He thought that if I did something for you, then you might help me.”

He hesitated for a moment.

“And him.”

“Why didn’t Jacob come?” Scrooge asked.

“He hasn’t helped you since – well, you know. And that was some time ago. And he thinks his case is – hopeless.”

Scrooge considered carefully.

“I take it there’s nothing on Spookipedia.”

“It’s not that sort of knowledge. It’s not numbers or arches or pockets.”

Scrooge thought carefully.

“I sometimes think I haven’t changed,” he said. “But your appearance has made me realise something. When I think I haven’t changed, what I’m doing is haunting myself. Perhaps you’re haunting yourselves too.”

“But you’re alive,” Marlius said at once. “We’re dead”

“No more dead than my old self. What’s worrying you is that you’re not dead. You both think that if you stop being misers, then you’ll die. But you won’t.”

“What will happen to us?” Marius almost whispered, fearfully.

“I don’t know,” said Scrooge.  “But whatever it is, you won’t die. Can’t you bring Jacob here?”

“All right, said Marlius, I’ll just text him -”

“Fly to him yourself!” Scrooge commanded.

“Oh, yes,” said Marlius. “I’d forgotten. Yes. Sorry.”

Scrooge looked at the second hand of his watch. It was five and a half seconds later that the pair of them stood before him.

“Hello, Ebeneezer,” said Jacob nervously.

“Hello, Jacob,” said Scrooge, smiling warmly to reassure him.

“Ebeneezer has something to tell us both,” Marlius explained.

Scrooge didn’t realise that his words could have had such a fearful effect; the whole city seemed to resound with the most frantic knocking.  Then there were anguished cries of something, and the sound of breaking glass. He closed his eyes in dread. Somebody was lifting the top half of his body, and he opened his eyes in terror to see his nephew. 
Tears of relief were in his nephew’s eyes.

“We thought you had – you didn’t arrive at our house, and there was no answer to the door. I had to borrow a ladder, and break the window. Are you all right?”

“Yes, said Scrooge.” I must have overslept, that’s all. You said I was expected -”

“Of course you were expected,” his nephew gasped. “We told you. How could you not be expected?  Where would we be without you?”

“At home,” said Scrooge.

His nephew shook his head in disbelief.

“Where would we be without you ON CHRISTMAS DAY?”

Scrooge suddenly remembered.

“I’m so sorry,” he said “I must be getting older in my mind than I care to admit.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your mind,” his nephew said decisively. You don’t forget things, and you never oversleep.  You’ve been up to something, Uncle.  Now, what were you doing last night that made you forget Christmas?”

Scrooge hesitated.

“I did a couple of friends a good turn,” he said. “At least I think I did. Hope I did anyway.”

His nephew laughed. 

“Well, Uncle, you keep telling me you aren’t sure you have really changed. And now, on you own admission, you have forgotten it was Christmas Day again, this time because you were so busy helping someone.  If that isn’t turning over a new leaf, I don’t know what is.  Now, we’d better hurry down without further ado.  Poor Tom was beside himself; he felt certain you’d died.”

“Why was that?” Scrooge asked.

“Well,” his nephew began, “I’m sure you’ll agree that Tom is a level-headed young lad.”

Scrooge nodded.


Scrooge nodded again.


“Dibbing.” Scrooge agreed.

“And, you know his bedroom window has a view of your garden.”

“He waves to me sometimes,” Scrooge confirmed.

His nephew cleared his throat.

“After dark last night, not long after he had left you, he saw a pair of angels rise up to heaven. At the time he thought they were bringing the great glad tidings to us all, but when you failed to arrive, he was certain they were carrying you away.”

By Chris Robinson

One from the archives…

A world without recycling.

A time into the future.

Ah hello kids. You have a good day at school? Oh careful watch out for the rats and cockroaches, dirty creatures. No you can not have them as a snack. You will ruin your tea.

You want to know what life was like when I was a child? Bit different than what it is now. Oh let me think now.

I remember when I was a child one of my favourite activities was fishing. Sitting at the park pond, must have been aged about ten with me dad, whilst my mother went with your Aunt Sarah to feed the ducks. What do you mean what’s a duck? Well you see that picture over there? That’s a duck. Ah you kids these days missing out on all of that, have to travel to one of the designated history of nature labs these days to see them don’t you? Well maybe I will take you as your Christmas present…would you like that? Oh good. You see we had to fill in the duck pond and close the parks in the end. All available space had to used for rubbish dumps. There was an uproar of course but well this recycling idea just did not make sense to folks at the time. Having to separate your cans from your papers and so on, well why would we want to do that? Folk were used to just putting all their rubbish in the one bin bag. Ah bin bags another thing of the past. You kids wont know what one of them is what when you can just throw your rubbish in the nearest dump now. Plenty of them about, entire planets just one big rubbish dump now. Never used to be like that. I miss the smell of fresh air, not this stench of rotting waste.

Course the best part of fishing was sometimes we could go fish from the actual sea. Could go swimming in it to, back when it was clean. Not this toxic soup you kids call the sea these days. Well when we started dumping rubbish into the sea it started affecting the wildlife. We couldn’t fish no more, too dangerous, even if you could find enough material to build a boat with. The fish were deemed unsafe to eat. Sure some of the animals adapted but others did not, the scientists done all these tests and found all sorts of chemicals in them. And well some parts of the world relied on fish. Can you imagine that these days. Back when I was a kid people loved fish. People loved all sorts of meat but with the fish and green spaces gone we killed the natural eco system off, Ah best not dwell on that. We used to see all sorts of animals around but not now. I miss them. We used to have fresh food to, one of life’s little pleasures was to eat an apple straight from the tree. Not any more, its all grown in special labs now. Does not taste as good.

You know what else I miss-newspapers. Sure you see the odd one around but not like we used to. Government realised that newspapers where expendable but the few trees we had left were worth saving see. I don’t know why, I forget….oh that’s it, trees help keep the air clean, I think that’s the reason why. Well we kept on chopping them down and producing more rubbish. The air became pretty polluted, people where having difficulty breathing with it all. That’s why we have to wear these masks now, they’re supposed to filter out the pollution but well I am not convinced.

People just were not convinced about recycling. Damn shame really. Just look at us now. All crowded into houses, two, three families at a time because there was no more room to build them. I suppose the extra people help keep it warm, heaven knows we do not have enough ways left to heat up a house with a single family in. They did reopen the mines for a bit but well there’s only so much coal and oil the planet can produce right. Not to mention the miners’ deaths when they kept on collapsing. Oh I am sorry kids, I did not mean to upset you, I know you do not like the power rationing but needs must.

Well your mother will be here to pick you up soon. That’s if her car does not break down again. Before we used to be able to build new cars when they broke but well they ran out of metal before you kids where born. No more ore they need to make it see. . Ah there she is. Now don’t forget your water bottles, best not lose them now it’s rationed. I used to remember when that was unlimited and straight from the tap-not any more, that sludge needs to be filtered so many times and there’s not enough to go round. No wonder we are all ill now.

Well off you kids go then. Yes yes I know I’m a silly old fool. No I am not making it up. Get out of it you cheeky monkeys.

What’s a monkey? – Just one of Grandmother’s old sayings, I will explain next time.

Oh I do wish we had recycled.

Angela Dunn

Fool’s Gold

It was meant to be a swift pint in the warmth of a summers’ afternoon, something refreshing by the river, watching light sparkle like hidden treasure beneath the rippling water.

Lost in reverie, a bunch of old college friends sat down and invited themselves to my table; before I could speak they ordered a round in. It would be rude of me to leave now I thought, She’ll understand, I told myself as I tapped out a text message telling her I couldn’t make it and then turned off my phone.

Six rounds later and rain forced us indoors, the illusion of the day dissipated, reality crashed in and we said our goodbyes.

Outside, a rainbow had formed in the early evening sky. It’s been said there’s gold at the end of one, but after checking her replies I realised I’d been the fools’ gold at the end of mine.


By Kevin Horsley

Heroism and Heartbreak

For the past nine months or so, Kirsten Luckins has been a volunteer Poet in Residence for the Heroism and Heartbreak project which is collecting stories of the non-military maritime heroes of the first world war. Back in March she led a workshop for the writers’ group on board the paddleship Wingfield Castle. As part of the warm up writing exercises we used “eyeball kicks” to create a collective poem.

You can read the poem here as well the other poems that Kirsten has written for the project.

Watch this space for more work from the group on this!

incidentally, a Call-Out

The Blacklight Engine Room pamphlets are great…


Now, listen carefully, I will say this only once…

We’re asking for submissions, BUT, you have to follow the guidelines given or you won’t be considered

We launched the 1st of our Incidental Poetry series on Halloween 2015, with “transitions” by R.M. Francis. This was followed by “tongues of fire” Jane Burn, “prodigals” Martin Malone, “chasing the sunset” Harry Gallagher, “our lady of the iguanas” Pippa Little & “river songs” p.a. morbid.

IMG_0033If you feel like you would be suitable material for The Black Light Engine Room then please send your manuscript to the address below, BUT, remember these guidelines:

It must be on A4 sheets, using Times New Roman 11 point & No Spacing.

Each manuscript should have a separate piece of paper with your                        name/address/email & short biog, as well as                                                                                          a list of the poems & the name of the collection

The submissions window is from…

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