Writings and Witterings


My Next Big Thing

A big ‘Thank You’ to both Daniel Grubb of Fantastic Books Publishing and to Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn for tagging me in the My Next Big Thing meme. If you don’t know what this is, it’s an opportunity to tell the world about your current writing project. When you’ve finished answering the ten questions below you get to tag other people, who do the same, thus spreading writerly joy all over the place.

Let me tell you something about these two amazingly talented people. Daniel, and his wife Gabi, nominated two of my short stories for their recent publication Fusion, it was great to see their professionalism in editing the stories and to see my work appear with other excellent short stories. Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn is the author of Unravelling and her second novel The Piano Player’s Son will be out next year. I met Lindsay at Parole Parlate, a monthly spoken word event in Worcester organised by The Worcestershire Literary Festival.

So, Polly, what’s your Next Big Thing?

Like many writers, I’ve got a number of different things on the go. I’ve just published my first poetry collection Girl’s Got Rhythm available from Black Pear Press and on Kindle. I’ve recently published A Flash of Fiction on behalf of The Worcestershire Literary Festival – a selection of the flash fiction stories from Worcestershire’s first-ever flash fiction competition. The anthology will be launched on Sunday 9th December in Worcester. I have completed a Flash Fiction course with ‘King of Flash Fiction’ Calum Kerr and am studying a short story writing course with Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn (she is a superb writing teacher but don’t say I said so, head / doorway etc!)  I’m also on the A215 Creative Writing course with The Open University. So much to learn, so little time!

However, for this post, there’s one burning issue – the novel I’m writing.

1) What is the working title of your book?

The working title of the book is The Citadel. There are already books with that title, so I must find something different (suggestions welcomed!)

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book was started a while ago – then life got in the way. I picked it up again and reviewed the story this year. I have a leaning towards sci-fi / fantasy and other ‘dark’ genres. Josh’s story was born from this interest.

3) What genre does your book fall under?


4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Josh ~ Dakota Goyo

Candlehop ~ elf ~ Josh Feldman

King Zorn ~ Bernard Hill

Felina ~ Uma Thurman

Skitt ~ goblin chief ~ Rowan Atkinson

Quassier ~ Keith Allen

Shadowblade ~ Johnny Depp

Aunt Sandy ~ Alex Kingston

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Josh is on a quest to return an egg to Invista before the goblins ruin the world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

An agency would be good – it will be published – I self-published my first poetry collection Girl’s Got Rhythm and then it was picked up and republished by Black Pear Press.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Several years. Still working on it!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

His Dark Materials – Chronicles of Narnia – Lord of the Rings – Treasure Island

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

This story was inspired from the pleasure of inventing an ‘other’ world – and seeing the ways in which the main character grows

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story. The approach to tracking Josh’s adventures in another land and the experiences he shares along the way

It’s tag time:

I think, since two lovely people tagged me, that I can tag five – oops, seven – of my writing / performing chums to pick up the baton. I am blessed to know so many wonderfully talented people, so those who are not mentioned here, just know I thought of you too, but time / space precludes me mentioning everyone (bugger!) Do check out the work of the following: Gary Longden, who writes brilliant reviews and the best poetry. Carrie Rubin who had her debut novel The Seneca Scourge published this year. Holly Magill, who accompanied me on a five day Arvon ‘Form in Poetry’ workshop – dying to know what your ‘next big thing’ is, my friend. Catherine Crosswell, one of the most talented writers and performers I have the pleasure to know, her work with Four Tart Harmony needs to be seen! This year’s Worcestershire Poet Laureate, Maggie Doyle, who has entertained us exceedingly well with her fabulous poetry. Calum Kerr, the ‘King of Flash Fiction.’ I had the pleasure of working with Calum at the Flash Fiction Competition and on one of his online courses, and Andrew Owens, writer and fab MC of 42

Over to you, my friends – have fun!



From The Dark Side

Claudia is tending bar at the dVerse Open Link Night tonight and said ‘Two of my fave authors are C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien who created fantasy worlds.’  Both of these fine writers loved to walk the Malvern Hills. Go up there on a fine day and if you’re quieter than a fieldmouse creeping over the hillocks this is what you could see …

They steal babies, issue changelings,
Whisk the breath from the weak and the dying,
Suck on columbine, nectar, wine,
Live in dark drear hedges divine,
Worry farmers, worry swine,
Worry sheep and creatures bovine.
With their green-stained teeth,
Sharp, pinlike, pointy,
Bright waxed blond hair
That stands up dainty,
Knuckled hands and flaked skin fingers,
Thin, spiked nails like chiselled razors,
Fine and faintly whiskered chins,
Spite in faces, malevolent eyes,
Nothing can stop them, they’re from the dark side.

Polly Stretton © 2012


Skinny Latte

A short story—two characters who knew each other a long time ago meet unexpectedly.

House Blend Coffee - Weak Skinny Flat White - ...

House Blend Coffee – Skinny Latte (Photo credit: avlxyz)

‘Jennifer? Is it? It is you. Jennifer?’

‘Oh my god, it’s…’ Jennifer shrinks, she’s back at school being told off by Miss Evans while Esme stands behind the teacher smirking.

‘Esme Davis.’

‘So good to see you,’ says Jennifer, ‘you haven’t changed a bit.’

‘Neither have you. Why, even your hair…’

Jennifer’s suddenly hyper-aware of her jeans and scruffy T-shirt. ‘Yeah, don’t say it, same old style.’ Jennifer sighs.

‘I’d have known you anywhere… got time for coffee?’ Esme tilts her head at the doorway of the coffee shop. She points; the gesture shows immaculate red nails, bracelets tinkle. She raises an eyebrow. Jennifer nods and follows her into the cinnamon laced air of the café. They order and sit watching the busyness of the town. They glance at each other over the top of their cups. George walks past the window and picks his hand up to Jennifer. Nice to see a friendly face, thinks Jennifer, and waves back to him.

‘Are you still in Allistown, Esme?’

‘No. Visiting mother. She’s in a nursing…’ Esme’s voice trails off.

‘Which one?’ asks Jennifer.

‘Just local. What are you doing?’

Esme might have asked a question but she’s not interested in the answer. Why did I agree to coffee? How typical of Esme, she won’t even say which nursing home her mother’s in. So secretive. She always was, of course. ‘Well,’ Jennifer says, ‘since John died I’ve been…’

‘Ha ha, “Dear Reader I married him”?’ Esme snickers, her eyebrow arches again as she sips her skinny latte.

‘Yes, you would say that.’ Jennifer shuffles in her chair, looks in her handbag, realises it would be rude to look at her mobile right now and closes the bag; she puts it on the floor, smiles. When Esme ordered the latte she couldn’t help but think: ‘don’t be a latte fatty.’ Esme, as ever, is like a lathe.

‘I always liked John.’ Esme pats at her hair.

‘Yes, I remember.’ Jennifer has a vivid picture of Esme hanging around John at the Methodist youth club: the way he would turn away from Esme; try to discourage conversation. They sip their coffees.

‘Do you remember?’ Jennifer asks.

‘What?’ Esme’s eyebrow is up again.

‘You were always the one who had everything,’ Jennifer says.

‘I was?’ Esme waves her free hand as if brushing the words away, the bracelets clatter.

To Jennifer’s surprise, she sees tears in Esme’s eyes. ‘Are you all right?’ She hands Esme a tissue. Esme dabs at her eyes carefully. Jennifer touches the back of Esme’s other hand, she’s not sure what for, but it seems the right thing to do.

‘Of course I’m all right.’ Esme snaps moving her hand away from Jennifer. ‘Such a do-gooder, so loved. So helpful. So bloody helpful all the time.’

‘You make it sound wrong…’ Jennifer frowns. ‘I like to help out when I can.’

‘I knew I shouldn’t have stopped. Couldn’t help myself. Wanted to know about John.’

Jennifer suddenly feels cold, ‘Why would you want to know about John?’

‘He meant a lot. Even though he was seeing you, I liked him,’ says Esme.

‘Yes, he knew that.’ And I did too. You made no attempt to hide it.

‘He still married his goody-two-shoes. Goes to show…’ Esme sounds bitter.

Jennifer tries to change the subject. ‘The children are grown now. Do you have children, Esme?’

‘Good god no! Can you imagine me? No way.’

Jennifer finishes her coffee and gets to her feet. ‘Well, lovely to see you, Esme. I hope all goes well with your mother.’

Polly Stretton © 2012


…Never Was

Each year, since 23 May 1973,
she remembers the child who never was.
The child who is and never was.
She hears the nurse say, ‘don’t look.’
How could anyone not look?
As if by not looking, he could be forgotten.
Forty years on
the shroud of grief cobwebs yet;
tightens her chest, tautens her neck.
Babe dead, mother dying inside.
She still sees his fingernails, perfect hands and feet.
Legs curled, foetal,
just as he lay inside her.
Still wanted, still loved, still missed.
Each year she thinks of the child
who never was.

Polly Stretton © 2012


Worcestershire Beauty

We sometimes underestimate the local beauty that surrounds us—let’s take the time to look.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All photos by me 🙂

This poem fits  the photos.

Autumn Sonnet

Winter comes stealthing… it’s 5am dark,
silent and chilly; August hangs her head.
A wet summer trails to an autumn, stark,
the seasons have become confused, misled.
In light’ning sky sunless clouds leer,
pensive garden, still, holds its breath,
a blowsy brash overblown garb this year,
scents of autumn in a whispered caress.
Look! The birds still want to wake earlier.
Rising sun shifts the dark then wakes us;
dew-laden day assists the courtier
who with the sovereign sun will shake us,

Polly Stretton © 2012



Totleigh Barton Photos

I’m just back from five days studying form in poetry with Mimi Khalvati and Sean O’Brien at Arvon. We had a great time. Lots of learning about meter, rhyme and other poetic things. Plus ‘cooks and bottle-washers’ for one afternoon only. It was a pleasure to cook great local food, in the company of some talented poets, supported by the Arvon team. Now saving my pennies to do it again some day 🙂

Here are some of my photos of the glorious autumn colours around Totleigh Barton, Devon.


Polly Stretton © 2012


Girl’s Got Rhythm

Girl’s Got Rhythm—a lovely gift 🙂

Find your favourite poems in this, my first poetry collection. Six-foot-four Sunflower, Mother of Pearl, He Drinks Blood—something for everyone.

Available on Kindle—and on the Black Pear Press website.

GGR BPP Front Cover - Stretton


Tweety Acrobat

‘T·see, t·see, t·see,’
with his blue cap
and proud yellow chest,
on his back
a bright green vest,
upside down
on round bird feeder
—acrobatic little tweeter—
parus caeruleus,
twelve eggs per brood.
Itty-bitty caterpillars,
staple food.

Polly Stretton © 2012

Blue Tit


We Will Travel Together, November

We will travel together, November,
to a solitary place, alone,
serendipity we’ll remember,
as we take the long journey home.
There’ll be time to put pen to paper,
to reflect on rhythm and rhyme,
to key and tone developing thoughts,
to edit words so fine.
There’ll be time to sit and relax,
to do simply nothing at all,
pile wild words up
on November racks,
while poetry holds us in thrall.

Polly Stretton © 2012


Worcester Cathedral in the Autumn – photo by Polly Stretton © 2012




Here is a poem especially written and performed for my book launch of Girl’s Got Rhythm by Catherine Crosswell—it raised many a smile 🙂


By Catherine Crosswell

Miss Polly
had a dolly
with a lolly
and a brolly
she did walk her border collie
with best friends Molly and Holly.
They did find a wayward trolley
and by golly it was jolly
so they decided all to climb inside
there were no brakes to end their folly
and after a kerb to kerb volley
all sadly ended up in a ditch
feeling oh so melancholy
But mainly massive Wallies.

Catherine Crosswell © 2012


Fusion—The Anthology From Fantastic Books Publishing

I entered the Fantastic Books 2012 short story competition and am delighted two of my stories not only made it to the shortlist (final ten) but are also included in this anthology —published on Kindle and very reasonably priced—an excellent Christmas gift—or just treat yourself! Click on the image below for more details.

The collection Fusion is compiled from the winners of the Fantastic Books Publishing International Charity Short Story Competition 2012 and features 2 stories from professional contributors Danuta Reah and Stuart Aken.

10% of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the WCRF (World Cancer Research Fund)—I like that very much.