Colchester WriteNight is a monthly community event that offers members the opportunity to learn from guest speakers, write together, and share their work. The group has been running for ten years and decided to commemorate this anniversary by publishing a short prose collection, in collaboration with Patrician Press. The contributors are a mix of published and as yet unpublished authors (until now…) – members who accepted the invitation to contribute a piece that would fit the theme Open/Open Book. The editors’ choices provide an eclectic mix of short stories from writers honing their craft.
I found this book a tonic to read. On a personal note, when I first started writing I enjoyed creating short works of fiction inspired by weekly prompts put out by the editors at Yeah Write. After a year or so of taking part, and carefully considering the feedback given, it became clear to me that I did not have the requisite skills to write the novel I had dreamed of. What I had learned was that writing is fun and therapeutic but writing longform quality fiction requires a high level of imagination, research and dedication. It takes time, and at the end there may be no publisher willing to take it on. It was this that made me decide to attempt to raise the profile of others’ books rather than create my own. It is good to know that community writing groups exist elsewhere – in person when allowed – and offer encouragement to writers wishing to test their mettle, either for fun or as a stepping stone to potential publication.
What we have here then is sixteen tales, some raw, a few finishing somewhat abruptly, but all highlighting the eagerness of the storyteller to entertain readers. There are impressively imaginative ideas at play in places – Jesus On A Park Bench by Jonathan King was a particular favourite. Life sparks from the pages in many forms.
Recurring themes are explored. Isolation, especially within families where role can subsume innate character leading to often unacknowledged despondency, struck a chord – especially given the ongoing effects of lockdown. Couples struggle with emotional bullying. On Reflection by Helen Chambers takes a possible alternative life to a new level.
There are also more hopeful stories. Lives open up new vistas following the death of a partner. Humour is employed to effect. Open by Wendy James was fun to read despite being about a relationship breakdown.
I enjoyed the idea behind Ms Wiffle’s Open Book by Katy Wimhurst, in which a young woman finds herself capable of offering fellow village residents very specific warnings of future events. I also appreciated the meta aspects of Open Book: 1995, 2009, 2021 by Alice Violett.
The book is described as a ‘celebration of community creativity’. It is a delight to see these writers being given the opportunity to reach a wider audience. It is also good to know that groups like WriteNight exist to offer them friendship and support.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Patrician Press.