July 2015 Critique/Review/Thoughts


I was going to give July on the CWG ‘a miss’, but Araminta’s story caught my attention and — well — one thing led to another, so here I am. The time interval between scoring the stories and any critique, review, thoughts, is really essential. Although I would like to see more advance notice on the forthcoming themes (I do understand the present difficulties: i.e. September’s theme needs July’s result).

While I may be a pedant, I do think that the ‘annual anthology [AA]’ represents an elephant in the room, if it bothers no else, it bothers me. I have to ask myself how a particular offering would ‘fit’ in the AA. Is the offering able to ‘stand alone’ or are there other factors that are essential to an understanding of the offering? Then there’s the issue that the AA only exists as a hard copy? This means there is a print factor and a research factor forming part of any offering, but perhaps I’m reading too much into this. In any event these considerations influence my scoring.

The other issue that I have in ‘scoring’ is adherence to the theme set. At least if I am trying to provide an objective assessment of the offerings. While I made a quick and dirty choice in June, I would like to think  that I adhered to the theme. This month the theme was quite specific:

This was to be a story which involves crossing the oceans by sea or air. The delights, concerns, or even problems that one might meet in the process or on the journey. The reason for travel — tourism/settlers/immigrants/convicts/business etc — or possibly a shipboard romance, a hi-jack, pirates, or simply a case of arriving at the wrong destination or losing your luggage on the way.

Perhaps the theme is only intended to be a guide, in that the general theme is what matters and not the specific detail. Then there’s the group title The Creative Writing Group and it seems to me that creativity, in this context, should supersede all else. Yet I’m drawn back to the elephant and my consideration of wether or not the offering would fit the AA! Ultimately the outcome is usually decided by my personal choice in allocating my points to my spread sheet and not frigging the chart to change the order but this does show how difficult it is to rank these contributions.

  1. There was one story that I thought was so well researched and written — being The Immortal Lavoisier by Giselle — that my initial thoughts were that it was a certain winner (which it was). History is a great myth creator and I wonder if the DuPont family created this one. Perhaps it could be true or at least have an element of truth to it and, for me, this was an inspired piece of creative writing. However, I thought the theme connection was tenuous and a fit to the AA doubtful as there were many unexplained or only implicitly explained references. Given the dedication (and my congratulations to your son Giselle) I did enjoy this interpretation.
  2. Araminata’s The Political Wife was an enjoyable read with another tenuous link to the theme. I did have some difficulty with the characterisation (not the husband’s behaviour — him being an MP). In the end I had no sympathy at all for Jane, I thought that she had settled for the trappings of being married to a successful politician and basked in her martyrdom. She was increasingly a self pitying individual. I was surprised when her best friend revealed her role in this relationship and felt that there was a lot of bitterness in what was said — although I couldn’t read a ménage à trios into it (I thought this friendship was a pretext to be close to Jane’s husband). I was left wondering if I had missed something. Maybe the last sentence really is the closer, to make of what you will. ‘Well, Gwen was her friend’.
  3. Always the romantic Angie’s Sailing The Ocean Blue had a really creative approach to the theme. Wonderfully descriptive with a theme concealed within a theme.  ‘His grandfather had only ever been across the sea once, to a place called Dunkirk on a boat when he was seventeen and after that he’d  never wanted to go anywhere again’. Ted must be a fan of Joseph Conrad’s writing.
  4. In An Unexpected Boomerang  from Fizz I didn’t find myself disliking Des enough to wish him dead — perhaps I didn’t like Kerrie enough — maybe I was more empathetic towards the tiger snake then to Des and Kerrie. I did wonder how the snake got on board (the apples may have been clue). Any Oz reader may take issue with the sentence, The next minute, two dark eyes appeared, followed by an angry jaw line of razor-like teeth. I also wondered what happened to the snake. Has Kerrie got away with the perfect murder? Was it murder? How would anyone prove it? This deserves a sequel!
  5. I thought that Gazoopi’s The Dark Side was somewhat over-egged, particularly by the addition of a reference to the BBC and the implication that the contents of this addition could be assumed as facts. The story was good enough to stand on its own merit, although I might claim further over-egging in the allusion to Scarlet’s last words. It was a well told story with a happy ending but I thought that it would have had a greater impact, if that was the intention (particularly given the addition) had the story ended — as most do — tragically.
  6. Having become a follower of Isabel I was pleased to read of her finding a soulmate in The Voyage by AmericanMum (my 3rd choice). At least I hope that she has! Others may be left wondering what the following sentence is all about. The tussle to get Barbara out of her father’s house had ended just short of having the sheriff’s department forcibly evict her.  I find myself yet again considering the AA ‘fit’. Do readers have to know what happened previously and are they expected to open any links that may be included with the story? Perhaps the third paragraph could have excluded Barbara — at least by name?
  7. I found The Gallery an interesting story Capucin, then I’ve always had an interest in nautical tales since reading Mr Midshipman Easy as a child. I had to keep re-reading your story as I became increasing confused over the timelines and the sequence of events. Not realising until some time later that story hinged on the ship ‘coming about’ and the success of that manouver being open to inference rather than fact.
  8. See You At Eight Darling was a really interesting story Atiller and a good reason for never doing on a cruise. I can’t really fault your story other than saying that although it figured on my favourite read list, my ‘handicap’ system did work to your disadvantage regarding my scoring.
  9. My 2nd choice was Latitude 1 N 16: Longitude 103 E 51 by Pavlova Queen. I found the characterisations really interesting and the story line creative. I guess I should have expected the Mandela interlude after the Gulag Archipelago being introduced. I found the Table Mountain expedition and the references to Mandela’s imprisonment a deviation from the theme of the story, especially the narrator’s leap into the future. I thought the interrelationship between the characters more interesting than the need to introduce an encounter with apartheid. We aren’t told that this encounter influenced Margot’s attitude and I can’t really infer it! Why was Margot so ambivalent?
  10. Having just read A Memory Of A Journey by Colmore once more, I think I will change the way that I assess the stories. It’s always difficult to rank the stories submitted but given the objectives of the monthly competition I thing the present system is fair. Had I personally scored your story better Colmore you could have been a contender and rightly so!
  11. My 1st choice was Chester’s Over There. Perhaps it’s my age, but this story hit all the right buttons. While the brevity of the story makes it difficult rank alongside other — longer — entries, you do master brevity rather well Chester. I wonder if you can submit an entry of 100 words or less next month? Has ‘flash fiction’ found a niche in this group or has it always been here in the guise of ‘creativity’? Interesting clip Chester though it did confuse me somewhat regarding which war the story was about. I had refresh my memory of the film.
  12. Jenny’s Leaving Home is another story that I should have given more attention to. Reading it again I find it a wonderful emotional story and wonder why I didn’t score it higher (then there are always ‘good’ stories here). I think that it was the inclusion of the lyrics that spoiled it for me. They weren’t as good as your own words Jenny.
  13. A Child’s Experience Of The QE2 was an interesting account of your experience Charles, but it never quite came across as a story to me. Perhaps that isn’t the point. Being a creative writing group I would presume that the offerings can take any literary form, including an essay. I thought that your contribution fell somewhere between a story and an essay account of your experience Charles. A trait that I am having great difficulty in moving away from with my own offerings.

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Hello, I’m Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, and this is my website. Blogposts, stuff about my books and a little bit of music

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An Anthology of Short Stories

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The Short Stories of David Goodwin (Capucin)

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