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This Week on Writers Abroad 29th January
Category: Site News
Tags: Writers Abroad writing ex-pat writers

January is almost over, thank goodness. Here in SW France it's been one of the gloomiest I can remember in 20 years. At least the evenings are starting to draw out and I've had plenty of time for writing.

Yesterday’s Formal Chat was somewhat sparsely attended, and I am one of the culprits with a last-minute commitment. Lesley will be posting up the minutes soon, so take a moment to read them and to look through the Skype chat if you have time.

Bruce’s blog post bemoans the need to shovel snow, since he lives in Sweden where it’s abundant, but it has provided him with some inspiration for snow poems.

Nicola has posted this week’s Monday Muses, a great selection to choose from with something for everyone, including – quelle surprise! – a horse picture. The usual drill: 500 words-ish or a poem in 20 minutes or so. Just let it flow.

The Bragging Stool is, as ever, groaning beneath the combined weight (no offence intended!) of Bruce and Debbie, who both appear in the latest issue of ArtAscent (Portraits), Chris and Sue whose flash pieces were accepted by Ad Hoc last week (how many weeks is that, Sue?) and Angela, who has had a flash fiction piece accepted by Cake Magazine.

STOP PRESS: Ad Hoccer par excellence Sue's interview with Ad Hoc is now up on the Bath Flash Fiction Award website. You can read it here

The February Challenges and Opportunities will be posted up this week and there is still Jill’s piece for the Swanwick Comp in the January forum. I’m sure she would appreciate additional comments.

In addition, there are various pieces posted in the Works in Progress forum, including Bruce’s ongoing ‘Medium Rare’ novella, so critiquing comments would, I’m sure, be welcome.

That’s all this week. If I’ve missed anything or got anything wrong please let me know.

Have a creative week. I’m off to get on with novel no. 3.


Shovelling Snow In Sweden Tags: Snow Days

Snow days should be a perfect time to write, with nothing much to do and few diversions, but things happen. Seems like all I want to do is sleep.


Had a cold these last 2 weeks, now starting on my third. The weather is not good. It often isn’t here in Sweden—lots of rain, and snow, and shovelling. 80 years old, with a cold I can’t seem to shake. I feel like shit, and I’m shovelling snow twice a day. Wife also shovels, but she’s Swedish. Shovelling snow comes natural to them. It’s in their DNA.

I thought I would be writing, but spend more time peering through windows. Has it stopped? Yes, for the moment. More is promised later on tonight. I was born in Illinois, but got out as soon as I could. I still remember local winter news (we had newspapers back then) about men having heart attacks, while shovelling snow. There were a few deaths every year. I’ve got a good heart, I think. Just sayin’.

I am not used to shovelling. I’ve spent almost all my years in San Francisco, and Seattle. It snows in Seattle, but seldom—and there was nothing to shovel where we lived. We did not own a snow shovel. I didn’t know what a show shovel looked like. Now we have two very serious ones. They are curved scoops, thirty inches wide, and can pick up a lot of snow in a hurry. You can slide the thing along in front of you, but snow gets heavy. Wife insists we shovel our double driveway when snow it less than an inch deep. This makes for a lot of shovelling but is probably a good idea—like I said, she’s Swedish. They know snow, the Swedes.

I’m thinking it’s a primal part of Swedish DNA,  genetic fear of being snowed in, trapped, and starving to death. I’m sure it happened in the old days. The American way, in my opinion, would be to stock up, booze and food, and wait it out. A day or two, no problem. Phones and the TV work. A perfect time to write, an introvert’s delight, but my creative drive’s gone bear-like. All I want to do is sleep, to hibernate. This wish as yet unrealized, but with good reason. Wife has clients coming to the house. The Swedes have not yet learned the art of suing one another, but an accident would be an ugly thing, if someone slipped and hurt themselves. Salt doesn’t work; it just lays there and looks at me. We had a chance to buy a departing neighbour’s snow blower this summer, but it was a big, clumsy looking thing and it seemed silly for just a double driveway.

There were new arrival immigrants housed near here a year ago, and young men in our neighbourhood were glad to make some extra cash. We hired three to help us move a very heavy dresser into the house. They were delighted with the cash earned in less than an hour, and we with their help—a nice, friendly, experience. The motel where they were staying is empty now. They have moved on, but I keep thinking that there must be someone who would be happy pick up a hundred kronor cash for thirty minutes work. Maybe next year. In the meantime there is shovelling to be done.


Still snowing. Three more inches fell last night, and non-stop all this day. I have begun to write with nose and head stopped up, but my creative juices flow. The subject—snow of course. Snow poems, the silence, whiteness, brightness, but the muse is interrupted by the need to scoop and move the stuff around. I wonder, how old do you have to be to get a free pass out of shovelling? Ninety ought to do it. Maybe less?  This getting up in years, the growing long of tooth, more food to feed the muse.

It’s interesting growing old. Full of surprises, unexpected, and defining moments of awareness. At a dinner party with wife’s family, after my arrival in here Sweden, there were several youngsters. A young mother started pointing to the diners at the table as she asked a child sitting on her lap, “Do you know who that is?” There were ten of us. The kid knew almost all our names, but when she came to me and asked, “Who’s that?” The child grinned with pleasure, knowing that he had the correct answer. “Old man,” he exclaimed without a second thought. My new found relatives cracked up, and I laughed too, but it was an epiphany—the first of many age related. These people saw me as an old man, and in truth I was the oldest at the table—but was still in my mid seventies. When did ‘old man’ happen? 

More of those moments came this snowbound week, while watching TV. I learned I was geriatric. When you turn eighty you are automatically classified as geriatric. Yuk. Sounds awful. There were several shows with older people who could barely move, or drive a car, or understand computers. People in their seventies. ‘She’s seventy five and driving a truck, all by herself—amazing.’ Still more bad news, eighty year olds dying all over the place—of course, they’ve always done that. That’s what people do. They die, sooner or later. If you make it to eighty you’re doing pretty good. A lot of us didn’t.

In the mean time typing’s easier than shovelling. Spring will come again, as always, and the words float out of nowhere to white pages spattered with black ink. Takes more than snot to stop a plot, and long term memory recalls a host of willing subjects.

Digger Odell was a character on an American radio show called, The Life of Riley, long ago-mid 1950’s. Digger was a mortician who always ended his exits with, “I’d better be, shovelling off.”

This week on Writers Abroad Jan 22
Category: Site News

  • Alyson has written a fantabulous blog about how you can jazz up your writing and avoid clichés by substituting regular verbs with more surprising ones from professions such as cooking or hairstyling, or abseiling, or tree surgery or whatever! Why not try making a portmanteau by pushing two words together to create a new one? Alyson writes that offbeat descriptions will make your writing stand out when entering competitions.

  • On The Bragging Stool we have Bruce, who has had a collage and a poem published in literary journal, Whitefish Review. Bruce and Debbie have also had worked accepted for the next edition of ArtAscent. Well done to both of them! Keeping the Ad Hoc fiction flag flying are Maggie, Chris, Sue B and yours truly.

  • Debbie has shared some juicy prompts and photos on the Monday Muse forum to get our pens racing across the paper. There is surely a mother-lode of gold waiting to be revealed amongst the dark rocky gloom that is January.

  • Jill has a story on January Challenge about the surprising benefits of a feline friendship which she is planning to enter in the Swanwick Writing Competition. Bruce has posted a new chapter of his novella, Medium Rare, set in sultry Rio de Janeiro, on Works in Progress. I wonder what will happen to the roguish Luiz and long-suffering Maria in this chapter?

  • Arrivals and Departures A hearty welcome to new trial member, Sue Roebuck, who I'm sure will be introducing herself very shortly. We look forward to getting to know her and her writing better.

  • We were all very, very sad to read that long-standing member, Crilly has decided to take an indefinite time-out from Writers Abroad. But we are heartened by the knowledge that she may come back when family matters have resolved themselves a little.

  • Next Formal Chat is Sunday 28th January 4pm CET on Skype. Lesley is in the chair.

Well that’s it! Hope you all have a very creative week! If I have forgotten something please shout.

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