Plotting Shed Charity Gala Night

in aid of

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance

Sunday 27th November 2016 at 7.15 pm. Doors 6.30 pm.

A gala charity evening of poetry, story, song and more…

to celebrate the works of the 26 local authors of Plotting Shed

Compèred by Heather Ayckbourn and Felix Hodcroft

More info:


THE PLOTTING SHED                                                  COMPILED AND EDITED BY DAVID B. LEWIS

A glass of wine or soft drink included in the ticket price on arrival and the proceeds from the ticket sales will go to Yorkshire Air Ambulance. The format will be cabaret style seating at tables with candles and nibbles and an informal atmosphere. The book will of course be on sale at the special show price on the night. A promotional film launch will take place in the upstairs foyer area before the main event and will run on a loop on a screen during the interval and after the show.

Ticket price: £10 – Under 15 £5



If you can’t make the evening please consider pledging your support on Kickstarter.

You will be helping local writers and helping the world by spreading Creative Writing to the parts most writers never reach.

All you have to do is pledge £10 plus the p and p fee as stated according to where you are in the world and that’s it until 28th November when, if the fundraiser is successful, Plotting Shed will automatically have the money transferred into its account. You will receive your pledge order asap after that. If the fundraiser is not successful nothing else happens.

Boiled Eggs and Burnt Liver

I love to fictionalise life memories as part of my creative writing process because there are so many riches stored in our mind from our everyday ordinary life experiences that it’s practically impossible to run out of ideas for writing. Taking a trip down memory lane always surprises me by unearthing unexpected treasures.

Of course, we all know that it is through our senses that we discover these gifts that memory offers up to us and often wander back through time without even trying. Just the waft of freshly baked bread as it fills our nostrils when we pass a baker’s shop can conjure up wonders from our past; caressing material before we buy an item of clothing can remind us of something we once flounced around in back in the day, hearing a certain song can transport us to a special event in our life that we may have forgotten about; likewise, watching an old film on TV and, my favourite, the taste of gravy made from real meat juices. This can take me back to numerous family meal times with a whole host of emotional turmoil to use as writing material, depending on which memory springs to mind.

Recently, however, it was a burnt pan that took me on a reflective journey down memory lane. I wondered how, from being able to create a roast dinner with all the trimmings from the age of 13 for a family of 6, I’d come to the point where I could burn a pan of water by simply steaming potatoes and vegetables.To explore my past memories in order to answer this question would justify the production of an epic memoir and the time I’ve allotted to write this missive would not come close to touching the surface of that.

Therefore, I’ll try not to meander through the memories that burnt pan brought to mind as I share with you my initial responses, though it will be difficult because each memory we have touches on another in some way and, once the writing process begins, the mind starts to filter those connections through the pen onto the page, where it flows in a river of thoughts – as I said, an epic memoir waiting to be written.

I’ll endeavour to remain focussed on brevity and tell you that in 1971, after giving up my job as a shorthand typist at the local psychiatric hospital, I went off to work in a cafeteria at a holiday camp in Wales (I know… Crazy). One morning, I was put in charge of making egg sandwiches for the display cabinet and duly placed a copious amount of eggs in a colossal pan of water and lit the gas. Whilst waiting for them to boil, I went back to the counter to butter bread and finish off a few other jobs. Thirty minutes later, interspersed with loud popping noises coming from the kitchen, a voice boomed out ‘who… the… xxxx’s… left… all… these… xxxxing…eggs… on… here?’ I ran into the kitchen to witness two dozen eggs exploding through the air in all directions from the burnt out pan.

eggsThe kitchen staff were rolling on the floor laughing and it was all I could do to keep a straight face as the scary head chef’s cheeks puffed out in red rage.

This memory then led to me thinking about the incident that was the impetus for me becoming adept at cooking a family roast with all the trimmings, albeit the memory is a futile attempt to stop me grieving the burnt vegetables and potatoes in the steamer.

In the 1960’s, my mother suffered from severe problems that required regular electric shock therapy to the brain for a number of months and, after each treatment, she would forget how to complete tasks she had been performing for many years, such as cooking. One night, when the family sat down to eat the meal she had prepared, my four siblings and I stared at one another round the table when faced with liver that looked like crisped cinders. Dad broke the silence with, ‘come on kids, eat up. Your Mum’s worked hard on this.’ He winked at us, took some burnt liver into his mouth and, when Mum wasn’t looking, gathered it into his serviette which he placed on his lap. So as not to upset Mum, we followed Dad’s lead, even to the point of complimenting her on how nice the meal was. At the end of the meal, we each had a lapful of liver tucked up our sleeves in serviettes and, one by one, asked to leave the table.

These photos, taken 15 years later, show she did eventually recover from that particular illness and as a family we went on to prepare and cook many a meal together… with no burnt liver in sight.

Christmas 1979From left: hubby Eric, mum, (photobomb daughter Gaynor), dad, (photobomb nephew Lee), brother Paul, sister Jan and me. Brother Daz was taking the photos…can’t recall where sister Mandy was that day.

xmas 79Our combined children at a separate table. From left: Jolene, Nicola, Gaynor, Graeme, Colin and Lee.

No doubt a variation of the above incidents/events will find their way into one of my future fictional stories, the seeds now firmly replanted in my journal of ideas. Indeed, the saplings are already pushing their way through a thousand other memories towards the surface as I write.

However, it is the popping eggs that have provided me with the reason I recently burnt that pan of water when steaming vegetables. I was simply distracted by something else, which is what happened in 1971. It comes somewhat as a relief to realise that I’m not completely useless in the kitchen after all, merely easily distracted.

I felt quite proud of myself this morning. I actually boiled a perfect egg for dipping toast soldiers into. But maybe a roast dinner is a bit ambitious just yet as I am totally out of practice with that one… so I’ll continue to sample the various eateries in and around Scarborough with my husband. After all, there’s only the two of us now and I think we deserve a break from cooking a meal – on Sundays at least.

Rain Dance

 The Inspiration behind Rain Dance

(a short story of fiction influenced by life memory)

Given the subject of ‘the weather’ as a theme for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle’s latest competition, I wanted to write about the rain because it hadn’t stopped for days. I began by writing a statement to that effect, and produced a rough draft straight off. This took into account my personal feelings of how the rain affected my thoughts in relation to a current life event – over which, like the weather, I also have no control.

This initial draft constituted three-quarters the allotted word count of 1,000 words. On re-reading, the middle section didn’t quite gel. It veered off slightly from the main theme, which could have become a sub-plot if I was writing a novel. For such a short story there is no room for meandering within the time frame. Thus, I turned over possibilities of connections to the beginning that tied in with how I, more-or-less, wanted it to end, though I remained open to changes – as is my usual writing process.

I had taken part in two May Day dances during the week of this rainy weather, thus a strong memory of my sister being crowned Rose Queen of May from our childhood was prominent in my thoughts. I wanted to explore this a bit more in connection with my story, as my sister is very much at the forefront of my mind since her diagnosis, so I went along these lines and used an edited first section of my story’s draft as a lead in.

Many words and phrases presented in relation to that May Day as I was writing. I jotted these down to capture the image and emotion of it on the page in a higgledy-piggeldy way. Next was the task of connecting the memory to the present day beginning of the story. I remembered the smell of the paper roses we made for the head garland and used this as the glue to bring it together in the middle section. I felt I was on the right track when my husband, knowing nothing about what I was writing, walked into the room singing Paper Roses (remember the song by Marie Osmond?).

After much exploration of the theme and going to and fro’ with various connections from the May Day memory to my current emotional state, I played around with words until I had enough material to write a final draft. This then lived in my head for a week and, whenever an additional piece of information occurred, I incorporated it into the draft. I read it through again after a two-day break from writing, making adjustments where necessary. I continued in this pattern until I reached the point where I was able to finally say ‘this is a story’. I didn’t feel the need to alter anything in the main thrust of it but waited another day for any stray ‘gems’ that could enhance it in any way.

The link between my memories, my creativity and my faith is a never-ending cycle of circles and, during the waiting period for any stray ‘gems’ to emerge, I attended a church testimonial service where the title of the talk was offered as ‘Praying in Circles’. As the talk progressed, I recognised this as being a God-incident with it being delivered on the very eve of the completion of my story which, incidentally, is about dancing in circles. Influenced by the talk, I did make one phrase change in the story that illustrated circle dancing as an analogy to circle praying­­­. It felt like a missing piece of the jigsaw.

If you ask me the question ‘what’s the story about?’, the answer will be ‘dancing in circles’, but if you ask me the question ‘what’s the story really about?’, in the context of what’s going on for me I would have to answer ‘it’s about coming to terms with my sister’s diagnosis.’

The experience of analysing my story in line with the talk has given me a great insight into the way I’m dealing with my sister’s illness. It has shown me a way forward in that I can use a prayer circle instead of merely accepting the inevitable. Prayers have already been answered that my sister remains positive, and the tumours have shrunk considerably to afford her more time. Yet, until the delivery of this talk, I no longer knew what to pray for in respect of the situation. The outcome of the talk’s influence is that I am going to be bold in my prayers and circle pray without ceasing for the miracle I want.

Written 22 May

(Competition closing date 24 May – Results announced 21 June)


Posted on the Scarborough Writers’ Circle Facebook Page:

Yesterday evening we had the Nikki Barker competition results. For the first time (well since I’ve been a member, at least) the entries were judged by people outside the Circle. Thank you to the Scalby Reading Group.The winner was Julie Fairweather with her story ‘Rain Dance’. It was a very moving story – and a bit of a first for Julie – it had a happy ending! Sort of.

Post penned by Chair of the Writers’ Circle, Dorinda Cass, on 22.6.16

I would say Rain Dance has a hopeful ending…  Julie F


The fear of c a t s is real

I have an alarming aversion to c a t s and, if I catch a glimpse of one, the unfortunate people within the vicinity could become victims of an unforgettable (even psychologically damaging) experience when witnessing my reaction.

So it is with trepidation that I have accepted an invitation to the ‘unravelling of writers’ group meeting on 2nd May to work on the finer details of ‘the book wot we are writing’ collectively. The collective being current/past University of Hull students who are participating/have participated in the Creative Writing Honours Degree Course since 2004. The book celebrates the 55 writers (along with their tutors) who have been involved in the programme during its reign at the Scarborough Campus, which is now coming to an end.

The lovely hosts for the meeting have offered to place their two c a t s in the bedroom where they ‘should sleep for the duration’ they assure me (YES… TWO IN THE SAME PLACE AT ONCE! YIKES!).

I don’t want to put anyone out but I know I will be riddled with anxiety in case someone accidentally opens the bedroom door.  Asking people not to let the c a t s out (as opposed to ‘don’t let the dogs out’) is not something I can announce without attracting unhelpful and irrelevant comments such as, ‘aw, pussies are so lovely, why don’t you like them?’ Er, it’s not that I don’t like them; I’m simply terrified of them. Doesn’t anybody actually know what ‘phobia‘ means? (Please note the sarcastic emphasis of this rhetorical question.)

There is an alternative option available in that the lovely hosts have offered to ask their daughter to keep the c a t s for the day instead of using the bedroom solution. I feel this is going to be a big deal – eg, maybe she lives a million miles away? – and have said (against my gut instinct) that I can probably try to cope with them being in the bedroom, especially as two understanding friends have volunteered to be on ‘lookout‘ for me.

I really appreciate the support on this one. And before anyone comes rushing in with advice for a cure, believe me, I’ve been there already (yes, even those ‘cures’ advised in the link at the end of this post!)… with all attempts proving frighteningly unsuccessful. I have suffered some horrible c a t experiences that I would not care to repeat and I still have nightmares about them.

I have attempted to write about these incidents, on a number of occasions, as a sort of exorcism to enable me to achieve a more comfortable place of acceptance rather than a cure. To date, this has been unsuccessful. The writing has proved far too scary and instilled palpitations in me to the point of passing out. I can’t help thinking it’s such a waste of experience for me as a life memory fiction writer. The horror story potential of the material is remarkable, particularly for an audience of readers who will go to any lengths to avoid any form of contact with c a t s, like myself.

However, it is a step forward that I’ve been able to write this post and ‘come out’ in public as a c a t phobic when you think about it and, looking through one of my journals recently, I did find a first draft of a c a t story that deals with the origin of my phobia, so there is hope.

The story fits my criteria for life memory fiction but I find the content too awful to revisit – today at least. In the future, if I can edit and craft this story into a worthy piece of writing, it is a good indication that I am capable of reaching out to that more comfortable place of acceptance I mentioned earlier. It’s worth a try but don’t hold your breath.

I’ll keep you updated on it (if I can)… and also on how ‘the book wot we are writing’ at the ‘unravelling of writers’ group progresses (whether I make it to the meeting or not).

The fear of cats is real  (LINK WARNING FOR PHOBICS – CAT IMAGE ALERT!)

Which damn fool decided it was a good idea to put an image of a  c  a  t  in an article about the fear of  c  a  t  s ?

Almost there…

A project listed on my last blog has almost reached completion! HOORAH!

With a closing date for submissions of 28 July, I can now report that everything has been gathered in to bring the Scarborough Writers’ Circle Anthology 2015 to fruition. The anthology’s interior is in book format, cover design will be ready later today. All that’s required is for me to upload both to the publisher and off it goes. It will be 8 days before a proof can be delivered back to me for one of our eagle-eyed members to read through to check for errant typos – those annoying little errors that always seem to appear after a print run. Hopefully, we can capture these (if there are any!) before ordering that.

So… watch this space… initially for the appearance of the book cover so you can gaze at it whilst anticipating the temptation to investigate further when, on 1st October, the book should be available to purchase (at the cheapest price possible, I promise).

Many thanks for your patience, both to those who are awaiting this publication with bated breath, and to the contributors, my fellow writers with whom I share two hours on alternate Tuesdays at the Scarborough Writers’ Circle group meetings.

You are welcome to join us if you are interested in writing. Simply come along as a guest to any of our sessions.

More info at (the website is in the midst of an update but you can still access it).

Many thanks for your interest.



A recent choice…

I find it difficult to let my characters go once they are in print and chose to revisit one of them on 24th April 2014 during the Writers on the Loose performance at the Scarborough Flare Festival. 

This adapted extract, chosen from the title story of my collection, Picking at the Bones, portrays the narrator’s observations about silence following the death of her neighbour Bella.

I was pleasantly surprised that my choice to read this extract generated a sale of several copies – post performance – via my social networking sites.



 I’d known Bella’s time was nearing its end because about a week before she died, she told me she’d started to hear the silence whisper her name… like it was calling her home. That’s what happens at the end sometimes… death can creep up on you.

I’m looking at Bella’s window now… at the place where she kept fresh tulips in a vase. I can’t seem to focus my thoughts with the empty space waiting there.

It makes you a bit jittery when someone you’ve seen every day for two years is suddenly not there. You expect the dust from their bodies to be drifting around the places where they lived.

When Sheila (my friend from the flat below) told me about her neighbour’s passing last spring, she said she hadn’t even realised she’d died until her husband had rattled on her letterbox to invite her to the funeral. She’d only seen her neighbour feeding the birds in the garden a week before so she could hardly believe it.  After she’d died, the birds would sit chirruping on the fence, waiting for her to appear with crumbs. Sheila said the strangest thing had been how, one by one, the birds had stopped turning up for their breakfast. Sheila had kept seeing the ghost of her neighbour for weeks… every time she traipsed down the garden to look for the birds. It was like she was still lingering there.

There’s a quiet gap in the mornings even now without those birds. I think that’s why I remembered about Sheila because looking out of my window at the day, storing up my thoughts, I noticed the lack of sound. The leaves are stiff and still and the clouds suspended in mid-air. It’s as if time has stopped and someone has forgotten to wind it up again so the world can move on. It’s like a missed heartbeat in honour of Bella from the tulip flat. I think Bella would appreciate that. If there’s one thing she’ll know about now… it’s the silence.  


See Writing CV page on this website for more details

The Big Tour!

Today is ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process answering four set questions. Last week the effervescent Kate Evans posted hers and invited me to join the tour. I read Kate’s blog, visited her website and was in awe of how she utilises her creative self within every aspect of her life. Click here for Kate’s Post.

Here are my responses to the questions:

What am I working on?

My second collection of short stories – as yet untitled, though I have designed the image for the front cover in my head so the title won’t be far removed from that. Also in progress is a devotional book of prayer and meditation, my personal poetry and ongoing journal musings – though the latter two are not for publication, unless of course something metamorphoses into an absolute gem and encourages me to include it in a blog!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Talking about my short stories, I am obsessed with the darker side of human nature and the subject of death, and explore this obsession within my fictional stories by using raw emotion from real experiences, which results in disturbingly compelling perceptions of the truth.

My prayers and meditations are also based on real experiences and as the topics are universal they can (and are) used as a resource in churches for pastoral/spiritual support. My poetry is a personal indulgence, again based on real experiences, and though I have had a few published in various anthologies in the past, I rarely put them out there.

As to the question, I’m not sure my work differs from others in the same genre, though I will state that my overall aim is to allow the reader to seek out their own truth from within my writing.

Why do I write what I do?

I can’t exist without writing creatively in some shape or form every day. It is a constant motivator to my personal well-being. I write to tease out hidden thoughts from within myself, based on my own or others’ experiences. I write to try and get to the truth of emotional impacts relating to various scenarios. I write to experience the joy in the sense of release when transferring emotional truths into fictional settings. I write because I can be open and honest about emotions within my work without fearing the consequences. I write to get rid of unhealthy negative feelings and turn them into something positive. I write to heal my wounded soul. I write because I enjoy it.

How does your writing process work?

Quite chaotically in the sense that I usually have lots of writing on the go at any one time and add to it as and when inspiration takes hold. When I feel I have enough material to complete one particular project, say a short story collection, I focus on that alone until it’s complete, placing the others on a back burner until I can pick them back up.

Ideas come easily to me through regular journal writing and everyday observations; I also find some of my memories in connection with my dysfunctional family background provide a lot of my material. Once the seed of an idea is planted in my mind, I tend to let it lie for a few days until it ferments and becomes so embedded that I think around it constantly. Once it’s at that stage, I use a sprint writing exercise to connect to what’s already started to develop in my imagination (write quickly without caring about punctuation etc – i.e. stream of consciousness). From this I glean the raw emotion for the piece. It then grows intuitively and branches out into strands of a story (or whatever it wants to be). It becomes the bones of a first draft. Then I start on the hard work that is the crafting and editing, again and again, until I’m satisfied with the piece of writing and confident that I’ve successfully wrapped and hidden my ‘self’ within the fiction. In other words, I’ve added layers of flesh to the bare bones of the initial raw emotion in a creative way.

And talking of adding layers, I’m now passing the baton on to Alan Combes who will continue the ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour on Monday 24th February. I met Alan last year at a Writers’ Circle and have a high regard for his varied writing skill.

Alan was born in Newark, Notts, and attended the Thomas Magnus Grammar when it was worth mentioning. He did teacher training at King Alfred’s, Winchester, and was awarded a degree by Nottingham Uni and later a Masters at York.

Alan’s first published piece was a poem about Adam and Eve which was a runner-up in the Lancaster literary festival. His first paid piece was about a camping holiday behind the Iron Curtain, published by the Guardian, which was a forerunner for his regular human interest pieces for that paper as well as a column in Young Guardian (not there now). As a teacher, he had a lot of pieces published in the Times Ed, then started writing football for the Observer, the Independent and, for 11 years, the Sunday Times. He began getting published for kids in 1997 and combined football and fiction for Barrington Stoke, producing two best sellers for dyslexic boys who were footy-mad. He toured Dublin on the back of his ‘Dead Man Files’, which was also written for young problem readers.

His musical ‘Black Potatoes’ filled the Upstage Theatre in York for a week in 2010 and he is currently submitting ‘Her Cambodian Bodyguard’, a play about Alzheimer’s, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Read more from Alan on his website and blog ‘latest news’ at


Grace Bingham Trophy

The title and theme for the annual Grace Bingham Trophy competition at the Scarborough Writers’ Circle was ‘In Your Dreams’, and part of the criteria set was to include the use of creative language. 

How could I resist a chance to indulge in one of my favourite forms of writing? Poetics.

Here is the link (see note below added 8.2.14) to my submitted story… The Six-Sided Box by A Poetic Dreamer (aka Julie Fairweather) … the poetics of which are best read in a breathless manner so you need to invent your own pauses during the reading of these. 

Oh, did I mention that this was the winning story?

 Judge’s comments: ‘Superb! A real attempt to use language creatively, within dreamlike descriptions that take the reader through to the end where the true setting and meaning are revealed in what I found to be a very touching finish. Wonderful work!’

 There is a metaphoric layer to this story that I hope potential readers from the targeted group will appreciate, and respond to in their own individual way.

My Current Status: floating on a cloud enjoying the euphoria whilst clutching the Grace Bingham Trophy.

Sorry folks… the story is currently unavailable to read on here as it is undergoing an edit for submission elsewhere.

Dithering on the edge of decision steals precious time

Still sort of facing a blank page with regards to my devotional book in progress, with many of the resources I’ve written branching off in different directions. The conclusion is that there are more things happening here and it is in danger of spiralling out of control – if it was ever within my control to begin with.

I have written enough material to cover various aspects of devotion to fill a filing cabinet… and am toying with ideas on how to proceed in weeding out irrelevant stuff and stuff that I’ve not repeated elsewhere. Hands up if you know what I’m even talking about. Ah, you must be a writer!

Do I concentrate on creating this work for an elective audience, i.e. the church I attend, or do I aim for a broader elective audience, i.e. all churches in the circuit, or do I make it secular?  Every time I look at the content of what I’ve written I feel it could be adapted to fit all three of these. And, most importantly, the emotional aspects need to be separated too, ie, personal experiences and insights, a broader view and a still broader view for the differentiating needs of the potential readers of the three options.  Maybe I have answered my own dilemma through talking it through with you on my blog?  I have three separate projects.

I know in my heart this is what is hindering progress. I’m trying to work on all three simultaneously. This is me and my creativity in a frenzied mind game… my need of the stimulus that several ongoing projects feeds me yet also the need to focus on completing something.  I could be in for a long haul.

Maybe I should stop singing ‘one day at a time, sweet Jesus’ and instead sing ‘one thing at a time…’