Trinket #28

On Thursday 28th November 2019, I ran a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.


Cressida wondered who this person was. Or who they used to be. They could have been anyone, she supposed. But they were definitely this person. Whoever this person was.

She found the cameo in the bottom of her rucksack, the one she had had since she had been a child. It was just sitting there, all innocent like, when she picked it up to go to school in the morning.

It hadn’t been there yesterday. Every morning she shook out her rucksack, to get all the little bits out before she repacked it ready for a new school day. There were usually crumbs left behind from lunch the previous day, that had fallen out through miniscule gaps in her lunchbox that the seal couldn’t quite cover.

Today, a cameo fell out.

She took it to school with her, because she felt like she was supposed to. She wasn’t sure what it was that made her feel that way: but when she was packing her bag that morning, she had put it on her bedside table and nearly left without it. She hadn’t intended to take it with her; but when she saw the cameo sitting there, not staring up at her, she didn’t feel right leaving it behind.She moved it. When it had fallen out of her backpack, it had fallen from the man in compartment: the one where she kept her books and her lunchbox. She didn’t put it back in that compartment. Instead, she put it in the front: the smaller, zipped, compartment, that was the closest to prying hands if they ever snuck up on her. It was also the perfect size for the cameo: like a letter in an envelope.

Featured image: DuBoix at Morguefile.com


Trinket #88

On Thursday 14th November 2019, I ran a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.


The doll was heavier than Eliza was expecting. Not so heavy that she couldn’t liftit at all, but heavy enough that she was surprised when she plucked it from the shelf.

In the darkness of the corner of the shop, the proprietor gave a low, dirty, chuckle.

“That’s been there a while,” she said.

Eliza turned in the proprietor’s direction, looking into the darkness as though she could see who was speaking. The doll rested in her hand still, laying on her palm and looking up at the ceiling with buttons for eyes impaled into the dark wood with pins that doubled as pupils.

“What happened to its hand and foot?” Eliza asked, for the doll’s right hand and left foot were missing.

The proprietor stepped out of the shadows, then: a beautiful woman, with long blonde hair cascading down to her waist in complicated curls. She wore a three-piece suit perfectly tailored to her hourglass figure, and her steel-toed boots clapped on the floor as she emerged from the darkness.

She walked up to Eliza and stood next to her, a head taller than her, and looked over her shoulder at the doll.

“Life, my dear,” the proprietor said, her hands on her waist. She twisted her head to look down at Eliza with a wry smile. “Happens to us all.”

Feature image: Ladyheart, Morguefile.com


Brand New Planet

On Monday 4th November 2019, I attended a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited.


This planet is an oblong. It has many craters over its surface, some of which have liquid methane in them and some are dry and empty. The entire land is a single tectonic plate: there are no fault lines, and so there are no volcanoes or earthquakes. There is also no groundwater – or, as it would be on this planet, groundmethane. All the methane is in a methane cycle whereby liquid methane rests in the lakes and oceans, then evaporates into the atmosphere before raining down again. There are no streams or rivers feeding into the lakes, and neither are there any oceans.

This planet has a few species living on its surface. They are microscopic but sophisticated. Who said that simple had to mean simple? Many of the species are cannibalistic, and cultures have developed around communal need. One must not ask what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country. After all, what is a country if not its subjects? When working for your country, you are working for yourself. Even if that means sacrificing yourself to your fellows so they can carry on living. Who’s to say what happens to you after that? Who’s to say it even really matters?

To say this planet has a name is to bastardise how the planet is understood by its inhabitants. If we must refer to it as anything, we can call it The Oblong.

They don’t really have books on The Oblong, but you could teach them to read if you really wanted to. They could read the work of David Clough and see what they think. They don’t have Christianity on The Oblong, so the theological conclusions would be completely new – as would the premises. Maybe a few would convert, but who knows? As for the ethical suggestions in Volume 2, such cruelty might seem remiss to them. Why would you go out of your way to exploit others just to make your life easier? I suppose their biggest problem with the whole idea of how humans use nonhumans would be that the used do not have a choice. True, the cannibalized rarely have a choice on The Oblong. But they are informed as to what is happening to them; they are aware of the benefits their sacrifice has for the rest of the community. Without informed consent, they would say, their actions would be nothing more than murder.

Perhaps that’s what it looks like to us, even with the knowledge of how they conduct their society. But we in our Western Earthern world are champions of individualism. We can’t bear to give ourselves up for the greater good. Maybe that’s why Christ is such a revolutionary figure; maybe that’s what it really means to love others as yourself. But is that anachronistic? Was early CE Israel individualistic in a way that us 21st Century denizens with all our modern sensibilities would be able to understand? Probably not. We have never been very good at understanding others. What hope have we of understanding what goes on on The Oblong? The practices are so alien to us – literally and figuratively – that we would probably be very bad news to The Oblong. Perhaps it’s better for everyone that us humans don’t know about The Oblong.

Feature image: lauramusikanski, Morguefile.com


Trinket #79

On Thursday 31st October 2019, I ran a Write Club for the University of Exeter Doctoral College. These sessions are geared towards academic writing, but usually start with a short creative writing activity. Here is what I produced in that short creative task. It has not been edited, though I may make it into a longer piece.


Sally didn’t know where it came from. It had been in the family for generations, just sitting on the mantlepiece in the family manor. Well, hanging off the edge, really. It didn’t seem to be anything special, just a relic from her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s time in The War. Her family always talked of The War like it was something distinguishable. There had been so many wars, wherever that thing had come from could easily fit into any one of them. There was a war going on right now. Who’s to say it isn’t really the same one? A lot of the same people are involved – or, rather, a lot of the same imaginary concepts are involved. The people are mostly dead. That’s what calls the ravens over to them. Ravens like battles. They like picking bits off the corpses. Sometimes their claws get caught in flesh or nagged on belts or revolvers. Sometimes it just isn’t worth it to lose a claw over, so they circle overhead. People are superstitious about the claws. Then again, people are superstitious about most things. If it isn’t explained within five seconds, a legend forms around it. Legends persist in a way that science finds it hard to break through. People have weird ideas about raven claws. They have no idea where they came from – these ideas seem to have existed for as long as this war has been going on. If, of course, it is the same war. Which is up for debate. What is starting from scratch versus pressing play on a paused conflict anyway?

Feature image: takeasnap, Morguefile.com