Monday, 17 August 2009

Flash Fiction: Classified

FREE to good home: full set of Charles Worthington Blonde hair care products. Never used. Radiance boosting and clarifying. Will make your hair glow, akin to an angel. EMAIL ONLY – PICKUP REQUIRED.

The girl with the flaxen hair, by Debussy, was always my favourite track. Not because of the melody; it's not that exciting. No, it was the name. The girl with the flaxen hair. That's what my granddad would call me when I was little.

A teenager once yelled “Oi! Rapunzel” at me as I sashayed down the street, my hair swinging from a high pony tail. Even though it was in an 'up-do', it still reached my shoulder blades. Best piece of street heckling I've ever had.

Now they shout at me for a very different reason. Now they shout because I am ugly.

The chemotherapy has ravaged everything: my nails, once shiny and well-conditioned with hydro-oil by L'Oreal, are now dull and cracked and chipped and pink nail varnish slithers off onto my bed clothes several hours after application.

My eyes, once bright and with twenty/twenty vision, are now red and dry and itchy to the point that my greatest pleasure is to rub and scratch, like a dog with a bad allergy.

My lips are cracked, like cavernous, pink, fleshy valleys, arid after the worst drought of the year.

But it's my hair that bothers me the most. It's gone. The last remaining strands have been removed. I say 'have been removed'. I almost can't bear to admit that I shaved my head last night. I gave in. I listed the expensive hair products on Gumtree. The hair products I bought last week: one last hope. One last salvation. They'll go to some other pretty airhead. As long as I can leave it all outside and not have to see the locks that will benefit from my vanity.

I'm still the same person, the same, strong, beautiful woman. As Christina Aguilera said: 'I am beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can't bring me down'. I don't agree with the last bit, but I sing it with gusto; it's on repeat on my iPod. Once I brainwash myself enough, maybe I won't see the monster looking back at me in the gold framed mirrors that hang around my home. I feel like the Evil Stepmother. Hurling a chair at the biggest, and most mocking of the set did make me feel better. Until I realised how much it cost.

The love affair is over and I am reduced to my core. Yet that core is strong. Without the veneer, without the pretence, without the gloss and fake eyelashes – I'm still here.

Plus my mum's bought me a wig.


Flash fiction written for East Surrey Creative Writing Workshop - write 500 words about why someone placed a Classified Ad.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

ESCWW Practice exercise: 'It Changed Me'

'It changed me': non-fiction article

Write an article of around 500 words about an experience in your life that changed your perspective in some way.

  • It could be you learnt something new that changed your attitude, or maybe your view of someone... maybe someone surprised or even disappointed you? That's not an exhaustive list: anything that changed your mind or perspective or broadened your horizons fits into this exercise.

  • Keep it factual (though you may change names if you wish).

Writing facts doesn't mean you have to change your style: it can retain some features of narrative story-telling if that's what you want. However, if you want to write the article in the style of a newspaper story, in the third person, then please do. It's entirely up to you!

  • Remember to write what happened, what you thought about it, why it sticks in your mind and how it changed you, your perspective or views, and even how that's affected you in the long-term (what you've learned from it - about yourself, life, people, or even what the moral of the story is...)

When critiquing

It changed me: subject matter criticism

It's hard to critique without some framework.. so think carefully about the aim of this piece.

The aim is to inform the reader about an experience that changed them, their life or a small part of their mindset in some way.

Do you get that from the piece? How did it change the writer? What effect did the change have? Is there a moral to the story?

Style analysis

  • How does the writer convey the change and how it affected them? Does the style fit the topic? If not, what do you think might work better? How about the language? What phrases and sentences do you like? Why? Which ones don't work? How do you think they could be improved?


  • Have they stuck to the word count? If not, what should they remove? Any punctuation or spelling nits? If so, don't be afraid to point them out too.