December 8th 2008 : So we have a winner(s)…

We’d like to thank you one last time for your contributions to this year’s Your Messages – both in terms of your responses and also your generosity to our chosen charity. We had said we would pick one winner, but as someone pointed out early on, that was always going to be impossible. We could have picked many, many, but after many re-reads and some lengthy discussions we have chosen two. They will receive two books each.

One is of thirty words, and one is of three hundred words. This isn’t deliberate, but it feels good.

So many congratulations to Jacqueline Haskell for her response on 13th November:

I dreamed of a closed sea and when I awoke, not understanding, I opened books: the letters swam a river before me and so I resolved to learn to read.

This exquisite response links both explicitly and implicitly to the original post but also develops its own theme and direction. The imagery is wonderfully suggestive (containment, moving from unconsciousness to consciousness, opportunity) and the ending has a poetic closure which completes the piece, in the sense of a decision made by the narrator, but also manages to remain open-ended. The three stresses at the end of the sentence – re-solved, learn and read – reinforce the conviction in the voice. The reader 'feels' the possibility of change in this particular life and might be encouraged to consider such possibilities in his or her own.

And congratulations also to Kathryn for her response on 19th November:

No one sees the dead babies. They are so much easier to cover up. Small. So harrowing is the sight of them that we see right through them to the ground beneath; the hospital floor, the bushes, the road.

Travelling along the motorway, we see traffic cones, blue lights projected at confusing angles, blankets, torn rubber and plastic, jagged remains strewn across the carriageway. A teddy bear. A tiny shoe. A policemen waves you on. You concentrate on the road.

Out walking the dog, the hedgerows stand motionless with the cold. Only those creatures preserved by centrally heated houses can overcome the sharpness of the frost in their lungs. Losing your footing in the frozen trench of a horse hoof print you twist your ankle. You are distracted by the pain. Your dog might sense a cooled body but he is on a lead and you pass by without noticing a thing.

You visit an elderly relative in hospital. You breathe through your mouth, avoiding the stench of urine and hospital sheets. You follow the brown signs on the wall. The endless relay of younger generations trooping back and forth with flowers reeks of the inevitable. As one patient passes, another enters the ward and a new family slips in to the ritual. Curtains are opened and drawn. And so on. It happens.

Down the street, behind the frosted glass door of a ground floor maisonette, is the silhouette of a child. A toddler. Not much more than a baby but it is standing. Because it has to. Its fists are smearing something on the inside of the glass. It is trying to reach up to the letterbox. It can't. The door is shut. The child screams. It is alone. You look ahead and keep walking.

It's someone else's problem.

This piece is skilfully crafted to tell a story – or series of stories - that might otherwise be too painful to read. The use of the second person works well here, drawing us in to what is nominally, as the writer says, ‘someone else’s problem’. From the beginning – No one sees – to the end – someone else’s problem – the tension is almost unbearable, with the use of varying sentence lengths and almost dispassionate reported language resonating long after we have first read it.

Their books will be in the post, but congratulations to us all too. This was a great way to spend November, and has been an enjoyable reminder of just how much good writing we can do when we commit ourselves!

November 2008 and Your Messages is Back... popular demand! But in a different incarnation because there’s no way we could duplicate November 2007’s amazing project that culminated in the launch of Your Messages at the Poetry CafĂ© in London in February this year.

Every day during the month of November 2008 we will post a writing prompt of exactly 30 words and you’re invited to respond, via the comments box, with your own original piece of writing which may be either exactly 30 words or 300 words long.

At the end of the month we’ll be choosing one response as the overall prize-winner (although we may well comment on one or two others as well) and the writer of that piece will receive signed copies of our books: Leading the Dance, Learning How to Fall, Something Beginning With and The Oven House.

And how will we make our decision from so much fine writing? Here are a few things to bear in mind:

1.There should be some kind of link to the prompt, e.g. theme, image, word or phrase
2.It should be a stand-alone piece of writing.
3.It has to be brilliant! :-)))

We look forward to meeting up with as many old and new ‘Messagers’ as possible online from 1st November.

Let the writing begin. Again!

Sarah & Lynne

Sunday 30th November

First off, apologies for confusing you day-wise yesterday (and thanks for the alert, VP!) We are not - yet - so powerful that we can change the days of the week! Just trying to add on another day maybe, but with no luck. Here's our last message for this year. It's been fantastic working with you, and we achieved our aim in running it again this year which was to raise some well-needed money for the Kids Co. Thank you. Before we go though, we will be emailing the writer of our favourite message before Christmas - this isn't necessarily the 'best' message, or the 'best' writer. Just our personal choice. There is some GOOD stuff here - if you want to use it elsewhere please feel free to take it down from this site (or email us if you can't) and we wish you the best of luck. Keep in touch!


He calls them his little worlds. With one shake, he can change everything - not just the weather but the way their stories end. He lines them up. Which one today?

Saturday 29th November

Well, here we are - nearly at the end. I think you know how much we've enjoyed this month, and we hope you have to. If nothing else it has shown how much you can pack into just thirty words! As stated, we are offering a prize of a selection of our books for the one message that has touched us the most - an almost impossible task to choose just one but hey, we are always up for a challenge and it means we get to read ALL of them all over again! If you want to be considered for this and you've been posting as anonymous or not given us your email address either on the page or privately, please do so. And now here's your penultimate prompt..


He wants a banana split with ice-cream, strawberry sauce and chocolate. And he wants it now. Otherwise he will scream. His mother sighs, sees too much of herself in him.

Friday 28th November

Good morning to you. And here's your prompt for today ...


The blisters make walking agony. She wishes she wasn't vain, that she wore flat shoes, stomped happily. Then she looks down and sees the red sequin flash. Home, she sighs.

Thursday 27th November

Yay, we have reached our target! Thank you all so much - and for your messages too. It's such a pleasure for us to run this project and with only three days to go, we're saying roll on next November already!!! And here's your prompt for today...


You can want something so badly it hurts, even when you know it's not right. The gold crucifix with paste jewels, the low cut t-shirt, the curly haired ticket collector.

Wednesday 26th November

As you all know, one of our reasons for running this project was to raise money for the Kids Co and we originally set a target for - of course - £300. Well, we're delighted to say that we have nearly reached this target which is much more than we expected. THANK YOU. You've made us very happy - it's great to think of Your Messages living on in this way after November. And here's your prompt for today:


They ignore the dripping taps and the damp spots. Look at the cherry blossom view, he says. They kiss, they dance. Months later, they can't stop worrying about the cracks.

Tuesday 25th November

Good morning to you, and here's your prompt for today...


Ever since the Giant Pike Accident, he keeps his mouth shut when swimming. Alone in the night, lips twitching, he can still feel the fish flap deep inside. Searching.

24th November 2008

Happy Monday morning to you. We're on the final stretch now, so thank you for those that have been with us from the beginning, and those who have just joined us. So let the obsessive word counting begin for the week...!


She thought she might be one of those women who only drank champagne, wore silk negligees, smoked Turkish cigarettes, laughed twinkily and talked about nothing. Luckily, events worked against her.

Sunday 23rd November

Good morning. Firstly, in answer to a query posted yesterday: yes! Post as many responses as you want to any daily prompt. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. And here's this morning's prompt to play with:


The magician who guides the sparkling glass spheres through the air might be performing a miracle – the way they seem to float above his palms. Sometimes not knowing is enough.

Saturday 22nd November

Wishing you all a great weekend, starting of course with this, your writing prompt for today:


He said I was an egg. That meant naivety, a lack of development, but also strength. I said he was a turnip. He said, I don’t want to play anymore.

Friday 21st November

Good morning to you all. Three weeks into the project and the responses continue to make us laugh and cry. And here's another one to challenge your imaginations and memories:


Leeches were once a favoured species. They sang; their bodies were encased in mother of pearl shells. The first leech to taste blood said it was all a terrible mistake.

Thursday 20th November

Hello again - thanks for staying with us this month, so enthusiastically, and so inventively. Here's today's prompt:


If you want fidelity, get a dog. It’ll make you happier, my mother said. You have dogs and you’re not happy, I told her. I know. Bad dogs! she laughed.

Wednesday 19th November

And today's prompt is:


When the baby dies, even the house seems to grieve. The front-door gasps as if light and air are too bright and sharp to meet. In one room, such silence.

Tuesday 18th November

Lovely responses yesterday. Thank you. And we're two thirds of the way to our charity-raising target, so thank you for that too. If you haven't already, you can click on the 'Kids Co' logo to see what it's all about. And here's todays prompt:


The History of Doubts was the world's heaviest book. 'Are you REALLY sure you want to take it out?' the librarian would ask. The book always stayed on the shelf.

Monday 17th November

Good Monday morning to you. Here's hoping for a good week ahead but in the meantime, your prompt for the day is ....


If I have to kiss another frog, I'll scream. I don't even want a prince. I want a girl on a bicycle and a picnic wrapped in a red handkerchief.

Sunday 16th November

Good morning - you're half-way through! And here's today's prompt:


He keeps the beer bottle top in the pocket of his winter coat. Each time he slips his hand in, away from the cold, he remembers the taste of him.

Saturday 15th November

Good morning everyone. We wish you all a 'jolly' weekend, starting right here:


Score these words on ‘the funny scale’, with 1 being hilarious, and 10 being humourless: ping, kipper, boobs, diarrhea, macramĂ©, tenderloin, poppadom, squib, lobworm, flageolet, demijohn, chomp, alpenstock, jig, underlay.

Friday 14th November

How are you all this morning? Looking forward to the weekend? Here's the next prompt to take you a little bit closer.


Five ways to cry and not be noticed: in the shower, staring at the sun, watching ‘Braveheart’, in a five mile tailback on the M25, in all sorts of rain.

Thursday 13th November

Good morning. It's wonderful to see how the project is going from strength to strength, gathering more 'messagers' and interest every day. We love it!

Here's today's prompt:


On the map of my life I have coloured in a long, blue river. It runs underground in places, forcing its way through rock, but ahead, always, the open sea.

Wednesday 12th November

Good morning! Ready to go?


Are you day-dreaming? Yes, it's lovely. Come with me. Hop on this elephant, see the colours of the birds, listen to the river. Lift your face up. Feel the sun.

Tuesday 11th November

Good morning to you! Brilliant responses yesterday which cheered up our rainy day. And here's todays prompt...


The plant rooted itself in her garden overnight. Not a weed. Or a seedling. It should worry her, but she likes how the smug roses now look fearful, petals trembling.

Monday 10th November

Good morning! It's Monday already, so let's get straight to it ...


She had gone to the shop to buy some noise. She wanted disco dancing, pounding feet, screams. But then she saw the bottle of green cool silence on special offer.

Sunday 9th November

Yay, we're nearly half-way to our fundraising target. THANK YOU. Nowhere near half-way through November though, and is it just us or are the contributions really good? Thank you for that too, we've been loving reading them. Here's your Sunday morning prompt.


Each season the garden smells different. The heavy emotions wait in every corner to pounce. The roses store up grief, daffodils hope. The honeysuckle is the only one to cling.

Saturday 8th November

Good morning. Just before today's prompt we'd like to express our gratitude for the donations made to kids co so far: thank you so much. You can check on how things are going by clicking on the logo on the left.

Have a great weekend.


After fifty years she ran out of curses. Just like that. She opened her mouth… and silence. It was the first time since her childhood that she couldn’t taste ash.

Friday 7th November

It's the end of the first week of this year's Your Messages and we couldn't be more pleased with your support. Thank you. Here's the next prompt:


He worried about: bed-wetting, not being picked for the team, crying, then acne, finding a clitoris, the last of which turned out to be the least of his life’s worries.

Thursday 6th November

Good morning. It's wonderful to see so many of you making this a daily committment - congratulations... and keep going! Ready for another prompt?


Janet & John taught me the essentials of English. Madeleine & Pierre took over in French. My life would have been so much easier if I’d been Susan & Someone.

Wednesday 5th November

Good morning to you all. Today's prompt is:


When God decided to write a novel, instead of just his usual private journal, he began to realize the importance of audience. And beginnings. And endings. Endings were really tricky.

Tuesday 4th November

Nothing lost and everything found yesterday - new friends, old friends, good writing! And here's today's prompt:


The message came in the night. 'Hey Rabbityroo, Graham-mahem here.' It's a wrong number, but she spends the day pressing replay, listening to Graham-mahem saying how much he misses her.

Monday 3rd November

Good Monday morning! We're annoyingly cheerful this morning because we've been enjoying reading through your responses. So here's your third prompt ....

Among the things handed into the lost property department today were: Four pairs of spectacles, two handbags, one laptop, three library books, six sets of keys, one red stiletto shoe.

Sunday 2nd November

What a brilliant start yesterday; thank-you for your support and enthusiasm. Here's the second prompt of the month:


The railway station is haunted by the mother of a baby snatched from there in 1955. As the train pulls in, listen hard. In the sound of the brakes, crying.

Saturday 1st November

Good morning! It’s so good to be back, and we hope you feel the same and are flexing your writing muscles in readiness for this, the first of 30 daily prompts. And remember, your response, or responses (!), need to be 30 or 300 words exactly. Click on ‘comments’ and post as soon as you’re inspired.


Scientific studies show that women can hold their breath underwater for longer than men. Don’t challenge any man to a competition though. Men underwater are far more dangerous than women.


We're getting excited! Join us tomorrow - 1st November - for our first 30 word prompt. Remember that you can reply in either a 30 word piece, or a 300 word piece, or both! Lynne and Sarah take no responsibility for any resulting word-count addiction though...
See you tomorrow morning - we're looking forward to it. And just one more thing, we're very aware how generous you all are at putting your work up here to be enjoyed. However, we will not mind at all if you want to delete it at any stage and send it out for publication. If you credit us, we will be very grateful but we wish you well anyway and would really love to hear of any successes.