By Joyce Bunting

Winner of Harpenden Writers April 2021 Flash Fiction competition, voted winner by members of the group.

December 1938, Johannesburg.

Dearest Eliza,

I’m sending you these three gold nuggets which I found whilst prospecting. I would like you to get one of them made into a wedding ring.


Sixty-five years later I found the little envelope with the note and two nuggets. I had them assayed along with Eliza’s wedding ring. They were from the same seam.

But Eliza had married Richard. Had James been her fiancé, or a relation?

Was he lost in the War? No-one of her generation was left to ask. There had never been any whispers. Eliza had kept her secret close.

Lockdown lethargy

I looked at it and yawned. I knew I could do it, but I was so bored. I felt like sliding off the chair and laying down on the floor, just for a while, lay my head down and sleep, for a bit.

I looked around at all the jobs I should be doing, and yawned again, this time my eyes watered as well. The yawn was so big, I thought the top half of my head would drop off.

Maybe, if I get a drink it will wake me up. What shall I have? Better not have a snifter – ‘the road to ruin’ they say, at this time of day. Though, I could have a hot chocolate with a bit of brandy in it, as a treat, AND it is very cold outside.

So, I got a cup of tea, and had another look at it.

My thoughts drifted, I took a big breath…………………this is it, now or never, after all I did promise to put something together for the writers meeting tomorrow!

By Frances Kirkland

Writing a Monologue for Radio: A workshop for Harpenden Writers

By Jo Coleman


On Friday 7th December 2018 it was my privilege to run another workshop for the marvellous Harpenden Writers. Having already explored with them the art of sketch-writing back in 2013, this time we were to tackle monologues, specifically those created with a radio audience in mind. In preparation for the workshop, I invited the writers to listen in advance to one of Alastair Cook’s Letters from America: ‘How ice cream changed America’. Thanks to the digital archiving of many of these BBC radio programmes, this was a simple matter of sharing a hyperlink to this.

Although this is not the dramatic form of monologue that we might think of when reminded of Shakespeare’s famous speeches and soliloquys, I wanted everyone to consider the importance of holding the attention of an audience using just a single voice. There is also a significant difference between delivering (or performing) monologues on stage to a present audience who can – let’s assume – see the way you move and can read your facial expressions, and presenting a monologue on the radio. We discussed how radio is considered to be an interactive medium, conversational almost, even though we as listeners don’t actually have the opportunity to enter into a live dialogue with the voice we are hearing, unless of course we have phoned in to contribute to the programme.

What is it about radio, a medium that feels so intimate and yet leaves so much to the imagination, that we can exploit when we create stories, reports and short feature entertainments for an unseeing (and unseen) audience? This was the question that we examined during the first part of the morning and the writers seemed encouraged and informed by their brainstormed responses in the workshop later.

From beginning to end, we shared memories and recommendations of famous dramatic monologues such as those by Joyce Grenfell, Peter Sellers’ Auntie Rotter, the performances of Bernard Miles, and renowned works that have been performed as radio monologues such as Willy Russell’s ‘Shirley Valentine’. It is interesting to note that amongst our members there are some who are not acquainted with Alastair Cook or those names just mentioned. Clearly, we’re not all representative of one particular generation, nor do we share identical cultural tastes. What richer recipe for creative inspiration could one ask for?

After coffee break atrains and buttered toastnd as a festive treat, I read aloud John Betjeman’s ‘Christmas Nostalgia’, a Radio Talk from the collection ‘Trains and Buttered Toast’. Then to warm-up for the workshop we played a game of Consequences which, believe it or not, yielded some bizarrely viable storylines.

The writers were then challenged to write a side of A4 or 300 words maximum; something that could be read aloud in no more than 3 minutes. They were free to choose their form: a short talk, memoire, rousing speech or eulogy, a re-telling of a dramatic episode or a fictional short story, even something poetic. We had time at the end of the session for a handful of the monologues to be read out by their authors; there were some gems, I can tell you.

monologue workshop_7 dec 2018_1

The plan is for the Harpenden Writers to hone their pieces and then meet with me again so that I can audio-record them reading the monologues aloud, with a view to broadcasting them on-air with a local radio station. So, watch this space, or should I say, keep your ear to the ground!


Lady Mayor and HW launch

Madam Mayor, Cllr Rosemary Farmer, congratulating Harpenden Writers on the publication of their Anthology, ‘The Words’

Local authors and poets from Harpenden Writers will be gathering in Harpenden Books at 48, High Street this Saturday morning, between 10.30am and 12:30pm. They will be on hand – not all at once, but taking it in turns – to talk about the collective efforts behind the publishing of the Anthology and to share personal stories of their own contributions to the volume.

So, come along to this welcoming and inspiring local book store, to hear some of the writers read out their work from ‘The Words’. There will also be opportunities for you to ask for their autographs too.

‘The Words’ is available in Harpenden Books for £6.50, and is also on sale on our  website and from other local stores Serena Hart and Thorns.

Discover more about Harpenden Writers, what we do, who we are and how long we have been going. If you can make it on Saturday, we shall see you in-store. Failing that, check out our Facebook page.

And for a flavour of how our Book Launch Party with the Mayor went on 3rd November, you can listen to a Soundcloud audio feature on our Facebook page too.

As the Anthology Editor, Terry Jones, has written on our blurb: “…who was it who said that the purpose of literature was to help us better to enjoy life or endure it? Expect pleasure in these pages but also some pain.  There are sure to be laughs along the way …”


Membership Secretary, Rania and publicity assistant, Jo

It’s an exciting time for Harpenden Writers, as we’re about to launch our second, properly published book, with an ISBN number and all. Our Anthology team and the HW committee have been working diligently on the project for months. There had to be enough support from the membership, for starters, to provide sufficient work from a wide cross-section of us, at an acceptable standard (honed and polished, in other words). There needed to be a budget and a sustainable costings schedule. We had to find ourselves an independent editor to assess the work, assist with the selection of pieces, suggest themes around which to structure the collection. A publisher and reliable sales and distribution methods were required. We should work out a strategy for ‘banging our own drum’ through marketing and publicity, a launch event, trumpets, bells and whistles…you name it.


The invitation to our book launch.

And it’s all come together. Not bad for a local writing society with a small voluntary committee and anthology team. Their commitment to this project proves how important they each feel it is to mark the 20th anniversary of Harpenden Writers. It’s a testament to everyone’s sense of belonging to the group. It’s not simply about taking an opportunity to self-publish (without the personal risk), but more a chance to be part of a collective endeavour which we are share with others; with our friends, family and acquaintances. A way of revealing “Look, this is what we get up to on those Friday mornings!”

Over the years, obviously, members come and go, move away or move on. But we’ve also, literally, lost a fair few. There have been several funerals recently where Harpenden Writers have gone along, with some great memories and anecdotes to share at the wakes. We’ve made genuine connections with our fellow local writers. We’ve formed special friendships. This anthology is dedicated to one such Harpenden Writer, who joined the committee to help with our previous anthology, ‘The Works’, ten years ago. As chair for quite a few years after that, Mo Bell demonstrated a humble but effective leadership.

‘The Works’ – to celebrate our 10th anniversary

Local groups and societies rely on people such as Mo who are prepared to go the extra mile, to carry the responsibility for thinking through what needs to happen in order for the meetings to take place, for there to be refreshments, speakers, and motivational writing targets throughout the year. This anthology then is also a testament to all those Harpenden Writers, past and present, who have contributed to the on-going success of the group.

‘The Words’ is out. And that’s not a grammatical error. On sale imminently. Watch this space!

Publish and be …happy!

Over the 20 years we’ve been running, Harpenden Writers has attracted members at different levels of writing achievement and working across a variety of genres. We have published authors and poets amongst our ranks, some are prize-winning. We have journalists and researchers. There are people who work or used to work in related industries such as teaching, publishing and marketing. But in many careers and walks of life, words are used, thoughtfully employed, specifically chosen and placed with others in order to make sense and to have an impact on others. And it is this shared interest in selecting and arranging words that binds us together.

HW books

A small selection of publications by our members, past and present.

Whatever our need or desire to write, we find encouragement in the group. It’s a supportive environment in which to express ourselves and even to improve upon our skills. Whether a member is learning how to write poetry after being an engineer writing technical reports for 40 years, or experimenting with the post-modern novel form after decades of successfully following convention, the group can embrace and facilitate a wide range of styles and a multitude of interests and aspirations.
Our calendar of monthly meetings tends to feature Read Arounds of members’ own work alternating with talks by guest speakers. Read Arounds often feature fascinatingly diverse pieces of work. There are occasions where the committee sets a theme to inspire or guide a writing exercise specifically for that week or to direct our choice of work to bring along and share out loud in the circle. We can read an entire work, such as a short story, book chapter, article or poem, or an extract of longer pieces, depending on the length and time allowed that week. The chair of the Read Around manages the time allotted to each of those hoping to read, and keeps a note of who has read and the title of that piece. It can be material that we’ve only recently begun creating and would appreciate feedback on, or equally it’s an opportunity to present completed work. The group is always happy to provide constructive criticism, if requested.

Members also form small, informal working or friendship groups who gather regularly outside of the Harpenden Writers meetings, for more rigorous feedback or editing sessions. The whole idea is to enable local writers to widen their literary circle, to get to know other writers, connect with like-minded people and be encouraged to write; be it to write better, produce different material or just to write more.
The talks that we have had from Guest Speakers over the 20 years so far, have covered topics ranging from writing folk music to digital self-publishing, from travel-writing to Haiku formation, from comedy script-writing to public performance techniques. We have welcomed speakers from the worlds of fiction writing, poetry, book editing, magazine publishing, on-line publishing, theatre, journalism, television and radio and more. Some of our members simply enjoy the stimulation of hearing stories of the professional lives and experiences of our speakers, whilst others are inspired to try new things and venture down new paths.


A couple of recent examples of our members’ self-publishing achievements.

There’s something for everyone at Harpenden Writers. Traditionally we’ve met on the first Friday morning of each month, taking a summer break in August. We know the weekday morning doesn’t suit everyone who might be interested in joining a local writers group. But we’re aiming to build our online community too, and who knows, if we can muster enough new members to extend our calendar of activities to include events at times that would better suit full-time workers or carers we will.
In the meantime, we shall keep you posted about our anthology launch – which is taking place next week. And do pass by our Facebook page one day:

Harpenden Writers – a place for writers to meet.

Harpenden Writers is a local club that began around 20 years ago following the closure of a WEA creative writing class.  We began by meeting in members’ homes but fairly soon, we had the wherewithal to book and pay for a suitable meeting place for our monthly gatherings. We became a regular fixture at the United Reformed Church meeting rooms. We were upstairs and there was a mums and toddlers group that gathered downstairs. The exuberant and noisy nature of the well-attended toddler group only became a problem for us when, several years on, we needed to change rooms and moved downstairs, to enable a couple of our more infirm members to attend the meetings. We tried putting polite signs up on our door, which did not really help. We had some young mums in the group, aunts, uncle and grandparents, as well as recently-retired teachers at the time, so we all knew only too well, how hard it is to ‘sssssh’ excited little ones.

We coped with sharing this venue to an extent but for a group that spends a lot of time listening carefully to each other reading aloud and discussing our work in the round, it wasn’t really an environment conducive to concentrating.  It had been a very pleasant, centrally located venue but we looked around for somewhere else.

Advised against relocating to the Harpenden Trust Centre in Southdown, which would have meant battling against the sound of amplified music, dozens of adult tapping feet and much chatter and laughter, we discovered the meeting rooms at the Friends Meeting House. The Quakers Centre on Southdown Road in Harpenden perfectly suited our requirements for ensuring accessibility for our members, guests and speakers.  Centrally located near the railway station, this venue has its own small car-park, is near some handy 2-hour on-street parking and within easy access of a couple of public car-parks.

HW_Carol Hedges speaking to the group

Carol Hedges speaking to Harpenden Writers in the Friends’ Meeting House, February 2017.

The acoustics aren’t brilliant in there, due to the vaulted ceiling. We suppose that one of the practices of Quakers is to sit quietly in each other’s company and to contemplate the world and life and so forth, but of course, we tend to do that out loud. And another children’s group has started meeting in the room on the other side of the building, but there is a library between us and we are only occasionally disturbed by chatter or excitement in the entrance hall.  Some of our current writers group members are hard of hearing, and do struggle more than the rest of us to keep tuned in, but it is excellent practice for us to speak up and to enunciate properly.

This, we have found is an important element of being a writer; to be confident in presenting one’s work in public. Sharing our work with each other, as well as beyond our group, has provided us with some really useful learning experiences and many joyful memories. With our second ‘proper’ publication soon to be launched, we are putting our work – and ourselves – out there. Quite a nerve-wracking exercise! In the run up to this significant occasion, we will remember on this blog, how we have printed and presented past collections of our work. We invite you to join us on our writer’s journey.

HW_reading aloud

A Read Around at Harpenden Writers