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Poetry Writing Competition on the theme Celebration

For M and M on their Wedding Day

by Sheila Johnston

is you and you
standing here together;

And love
is us and you
here together with you,

For love
is all of us
here together bound,

A love
that starts with us
and shines from us.

A love
to heal this place
must start with us

For love
is never going back
to yesterday

And love
is all our hope
for your tomorrows.

Sheila JohnstonInspiration behind this poem
This poem was written for two people whom I love dearly. I lived my entire adult life through the Troubles in Northern Ireland and these two people who were getting married were from opposite communities. He is Protestant and she is Catholic. They are a deeply Christian pair who fell in love. Their wedding took place in a chapel deep inside a sectarian area, a few years after the Good Friday Agreement brought relative peace. The service was unforgettable and moving. They asked me to write a poem to be put on their Order of Service. This is it.

Sheila Johnston. I am the daughter of a Methodist minister and thereby experienced many years of travelling around different parts of Ireland, wherever my father was stationed. My education was mainly in Belfast, including four years at Queen’s University. I have had many short stories published and have written for local and national periodicals. My poetry was greatly influenced by the Troubles, as indeed has much of my outlook on life. Now more involved with fiction projects, I am the author of Maker of Footprints, a contemporary novel of selfishness, love and the consequences when these two emotions conflict.

Recipe Writing Competition


Summer Magic Fool.

Summer Fool by Amanda Jane DaviesIngredients.

450g of Blackberries.

450g of Blueberries.

275g of Greek Style Plain Yoghurt.

2 Tablespoons of Local Honey.

1-2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

7 Biscuits of your choice.


  1. Soak the blackberries overnight to ensure any little bugs are eliminated. Wash the blueberries and return to the fridge until ready to make the fool.

  2. Heat the honey in a saucepan with the cinnamon, rinse the blackberries in fresh water and add them to the honey, cooking them until they become soft and their juice bubbles.

  3. Whilst warm strain the blackberries reserving both the juice and the pulp. Allow to cool fully.

  4. Split the yoghurt into two bowls and stir gently with a dessert spoon.

  5. Crush most of the blueberries then mix gently into one of the bowls of yoghurt and return to the fridge. Mix half of the blackberry pulp with the other bowl of yoghurt.

  6. Work quickly to fill six wine glasses with the remaining blackberry pulp. Adding a little of the reserved juice.

  7. Next add a layer of the blackberry yoghurt. Use the back of a teaspoon to make the layers even.

  8. Follow this with adding a layer of crushed biscuits and then another of the chilled blueberry yoghurt.

  9. Finally decorate each glass with a few of the leftover blueberries, a little crushed biscuit and a swirl of blackberry juice.

This is my all-time favourite summer pudding recipe because it evokes old and new memories. Bygone days as a child gathering blackberries with my mum and brothers, walking the country lanes of home. All three of us kids trying to avoid the stinging nettles and thorns; Mum laughing when we didn't.  Later the smell of blackberry and apple crumble baking in the oven.

Now new memories of taking my step-granddaughter out to do the same. But being more health conscious, swapping sweet crumble and custard for something light and fresh. Her taking my hand, urging me to run to show grandad how much fruit she has collected. Then her raiding our garden to gather blueberries from the bushes. She tells me "We can make a strawberry and raspberry one next time." And she's right we can. Because, all I need to make this pud is a bit of summer magic.


Amanda Jane DaviesAmanda Jane Davies was born in St David’s the UK’s smallest city. She now resides in South Pembrokeshire.

She is passionate about writing, learning and nature. She currently writes online articles for Richard Jackson’s Garden and Thompson and Morgan Seed Specialists.

Amanda hopes to eventually publish a fictional novel inspired by what she has learned from both her studies with the Writers Bureau and by what she has learned from growing tomatoes! You can read her published work by following her on Twitter using


Drabble Writing Competition

Cedric Fox-KirkCedric Fox-Kirk - I have lived in Cyprus for 14 years and write when the busy retired person's life I lead gives me some free time. I took it up late by my first short story won the FMN Halloween Horror Story competition in 2008, which gave me all the encouragement I needed.

Houseswap of Horrors by Cedric Fox-Kirk

Callum and Mary live in a semi near Glasgow airport. Callum checked the PadSwap Web Page: “Hey, this is great.”

“Go for it.” Mary said.

They arranged the swap with the owners of a magnificent villa overlooking Haywards Heath and went on holiday.

The first morning the phone rang, “Hello,” said Callum.

“I know who you are.”


“I know where you live.”

“Who is this?”

“I am Pedroza. You owe me two million and you will pay this time tomorrow.”

They called their own home – no reply. They called the police who called it a hoax.

Next day Pedroza arrived.


Autumn - Short Story Writing Competition

Victoira Walklate - I live in the Norfolk countryside with my husband, two feral children and diva cat. Writing keeps me out of trouble while the kids are at school. I have published a historical fiction novel and am currently working on the sequel, along with a fantasy novel and lots of short stories. I enjoy the challenge of writing competitions and have been lucky enough to win a couple and be shortlisted in a few others. Victoria Walklate

Fantasy Man by Victoria Walklate

They barely spoke, but that was how they liked it. There were five of them altogether, including Esmé. They met twice a week in Eric’s cafe. She knew their names and acknowledged them with a nod or a smile. They did the same to her. That was sufficient.

The dimly-lit café sat halfway down a nondescript alley that led nowhere. The handmade poster announcing the gamer sessions was barely visible in the filthy windows. The espresso machine was dangerously unpredictable and most of the rickety furniture needed throwing out and replacing. Outside, the café’s name sign had fallen off and there was no parking nearby. Footfall was so rare that Esmé often wondered how Eric stayed in business.

Everyone was present and on time, as usual. Esmé had picked her regular seat with her back to the left-hand wall. The chair was wobbly but the table was one of the few sturdy ones, which was much more important as it held her most prized possession. She loaded up her beloved laptop and put in her headphones. Kimmie-Li was already playing, her dark eyes intent on the screen in front of her. Alfie was fumbling with his own laptop, spilling coffee down his Lord of the Rings t-shirt as he attempted to upload an add-on. Eric was making a latte and watching Alfie with amusement until the espresso machine distracted him by spitting foam everywhere.

Across the room, Jack’s piercing blue eyes were full of challenge as he sipped his cappuccino. Her heart skipped a beat. He was clearly unhappy about her victory against him last time. He was the newest member of their group, having joined around three months ago, but he was an experienced player with an impressively high skill level. Gamers of his stature did not like being beaten.

He was even more gorgeous when he was angry.

Eric presented Esmé with her latte and then trotted back to his tablet behind the counter, wiping frothy specks from his apron and grey-streaked beard. She inhaled the acrid scent as she took her first sip, hiding her grimace as the bitterness coated her tongue. Making a mental note to request tea next time, she clicked expertly and plunged into the world she vastly preferred to the real one.

Princess Esmerelda – Presma for short – stared around the lush, green hillside. Her new sword rested in the sheath on her hip and a velvet bag containing the magical gemstone she’d acquired from Dumble-Dalf swung from her belt. She wasn’t sure of its power – Dumble-Dalf was only a Level Six wizard – but she wouldn’t know until she used it.

What to do now? A small, safe village nestled in the valley below her, full of welcoming allies and the comforts of home. On the other hand, towering above her was Troll Mountain, where the riches were plentiful but the risks were great. As she mused, she saw someone approaching. The great warrior, Firebrand Jack, stalked towards her. Tall, dark and handsome, just like in real life. His golden armour glimmered in the morning sun. Two large axes were clipped to his back and a dagger was sheathed on his hip. His sword sheath, however, was glaringly empty.

An envelope icon appeared. She right-clicked to lock the chat session in place on one side of the screen, then clicked the envelope. The words were short and to the point.


Presma’s reply was equally brief.

“Not today.”

“I want my sword back! Rematch!”

The official battle challenge was sent. Esmé clicked in irritation. She either had to accept it and possibly lose the fantastic sword in defeat, or decline but sacrifice valuable respect points, which were useful in scaring off trolls. Or perhaps there was a third option? She typed it.


She waited for his reply. It wasn’t long coming.


“Troll Mountain.”

There was a pause. Then the challenge was rescinded. “Okay. You have spells?”

“Just one. Not sure how powerful it is though – Dumble-Dalf made it.”

A laughing emoji was his response, followed by some rolling eyes and a wizard with a question mark above his head.

They set off. Being experienced questers, they made good progress. The green hills quickly changed to craggy rocks and sharp, slippery gravel. Bare thickets replaced the oaks and maples of before, as the sky grew darker and thunder rumbled in the distance. They sent messages back and forth while they walked.

“Why did Dumble-Dalf give you gemstone?”

“He was on last life – I had one to spare.”

“I would’ve ended him.”

She sent a smile emoji. “I know.”

“You’re nicer than me.”

“Well I am a princess.”

The ground grew rockier and the last of the spindly bushes disappeared. The ridges and bluffs loomed above them menacingly. A cave appeared ahead, the entrance barely more than a jagged fissure in the stone. They headed towards it.

“Do warrior princesses go on dates?”

Presma’s stride faltered. He’d flirted with her before, pretty much every time they played, and often asked about her relationship status, but this bluntness was new. He was quite a bit older than her own nineteen years and despite his attractiveness, she was wary. She typed carefully as they continued walking.

“Dates don’t lead to treasure. I prefer quests and battles.”

“I meant in the real world.”

Esmé’s eyes rose to meet Jack’s above the glare of the screens. His sensual lips quirked and her throat dried up. Confusion filled her; did he think he was talking to the gorgeous, enigmatic Kimmie-Li, or Kimli the Enchantress as she was called here? No, he was definitely looking at her. Bobbed brown hair, nondescript hazel eyes underneath cute but thick glasses, a baggy top and comfortable jeans. Vaguely pretty in a girl-next-door way, but nothing special. Time to send back a confident, Princess Esmerelda reply.


Dammit. Before he could reply to her barrage of punctuation, a troll crashed down on them.

The powerful creature annihilated half her energy points before she regained control. Jack’s axes swished through the air and the troll staggered. She bounded up and double-clicked to swing the sword, slicing cleanly through the creature’s neck.

It collapsed in an ungainly heap and faded away, leaving behind a pile of gold coins and a spiral shell.

“Good teamwork,” Firebrand Jack messaged her as he studied the shell.

“Yes. Is that a magic item?”

“That’s mine!” A third person joined the chat as a portal opened in front of them and Kimli the Enchantress appeared, her silver gown flowing around her. “Troll stole it from me! Give it back.”

Firebrand Jack had already picked it up. “Finders keepers.”

An angry huff from across the cafe made everyone look up for a moment. Kimmie-Li’s typing grew louder and more aggressive.

“Don’t be a tool. Give it back. I spent ages crafting it.”

Esmé waded in. “Maybe give it back? Too much drama?”

Firebrand Jack hesitated then held out the shell. Before Kimli the Enchantress could take it, the dwarf Eric Thickbeard appeared from nowhere and snatched it from the warrior’s hand. He rushed to cave entrance and squeezed through, weaving a barrier spell behind him as he entered. The Enchantress tore after him, breaking his spell with one wave of her hand and disappearing into the darkness. Frantic mouse-clicking, fierce typing and the occasional curse word filled the café as Kimmie-Li and Eric engaged in an epic battle under the mountain. Strangely, she didn’t seem as angry with Eric as she had been with Jack.

Another message flashed up on Esmé’s screen. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Her pulse quickened, but she sent a casual reply. “Sometimes I go on dates. Why?”

“Shall we go on a date, princess?”

She could feel the blush crawling up her neck. Playing for time, she clicked on the food icon then grabbed her phone and sent a quick text while her avatar replenished her energy levels with a virtual cheese pasty.

After a few minutes, Jack sent a sad face emoji.

“Is that a no?”

Esmé still couldn’t quite believe this. “Just surprised. Doubt I’m your type?”

“Cute brunette who plays video games? What’s not to like?”

Esmé sent a smiling face then typed, “Shall we go into the cave?”

Jack’s sigh could be heard across the room. His answer wasn’t long in coming.

“If you want. You STILL haven’t answered my question! If I kill trolls and make you rich, will you go on a date with me?”

Suddenly, the cafe door swung open. Everyone looked up, surprised. At least, almost everyone was surprised. Esmé nodded soberly at the newcomer. She was tall and blonde, with sad blue eyes and a neat little pregnancy bump.

Eric stood up and gave a bemused but welcoming smile. The woman ignored him and headed straight for Jack, who had paled and closed his laptop hurriedly. She glared at him, then turned on her heel and stalked over to Esmé, who silently angled her machine so the woman could read the typescript of the chat. After she’d finished, she straightened.

“Thanks for the text,” she muttered.

“No problem,” Esmé murmured. The blonde woman stormed back to Jack.

“You promised me,” she said, her voice shaking. “You promised it would never happen again.”

Esme watched as the handsome man’s ears went bright red, in stark contrast to his suddenly-ashen face. He opened his mouth to speak but all that came out was an odd, strangled sound. The woman continued relentlessly, her trembling voice echoing through the sparse little room.

“Did you honestly think you could keep it a secret this time? Gamer girls talk, you know. Esmé and Kimmie-Li were warned and given my number the moment that Firebrand Jack…” – her voice became sneering – “… swaggered through the door. Don’t bother coming home, because this time the locks will be changed.”

With that, she left, slamming the door behind her. Tangible silence filled the café. Even the clicking and typing had stopped.

Esmé watched the strong, arrogant warrior fade away on the screen in front of her. Then Jack stood up and cleared his throat. She met his gaze. Now the challenge was in her eyes, not his. He opened and closed his mouth like a fish on the riverbank, then gathered up his laptop and slinked out of the café.

Everyone stared at her. Eric was grinning broadly. Kimmie-Li’s eyes gleamed with admiration. Even Alfie was smiling at her shyly. He was rather cute, Esmé realised. Maybe she should invite him to join her quest. They could use his spell together. With a few clicks, she returned to the dark peaks of Troll Mountain. Way more fun than real life.



Sarah Plater Writers Bureau's Writer of the Year 2017

“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."

Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017

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