We have a fantastic group of talented writers to regularly come to Chasing Driftwood’s Monday evening writing group and I shall be highlighting their work here wherever possible. Toby gave me permission to post this short story he wrote in response to a current global issue. Perhaps you can guess what or who inspired this piece?

In Denial

A short story by Toby Martin



“The house is on fire.”

“It’s what now?”

I looked at him pleadingly. “On fire. Jim, the house is on fire. It might have been that cigarette you had earlier. Told you shouldn’t have done it in the house.”

Jim frowned. “Are you saying you want me to stop smoking?”

I shrugged. “I mean, yeah, and not just because it’ll set the house on fire…” I shook my head. “But that’s not the point, Jim! The house is on fire! We need to get out!”

Jim yawned and crossed one leg over the other. “Well, I’m kind of comfortable here. How do I know this isn’t just a ruse to get my chair?”

I coughed in indignation. The smoke was beginning to take its toll. More urgent action was needed. “Come on, Jim!” I wailed. “Are you really going to deny the fire?”

“Well, I can’t see it…”

“Come and have a look then!”

Jim scoffed. “And let you get my chair? Nice try!”

I groaned loudly, seized his chair from behind and pushed it towards the door. Here, the flames were just visible and the crackling audible above the hideous smell of smoke. Coughing, I managed to gesture whilst looking exasperatedly at Jim.

“See?” I managed to splutter.

“Oh yeah…” Jim leaned forward. “Yeah, that does look like a fire.”

“Exactly,” I said, almost sagging with the relief that he had finally got it.

“But…” Jim frowned and leaned back again. “I’m not convinced that I was the one to start it…”

“That doesn’t matter!” I screeched. “We need to get out of the house!”

“It does matter,” Jim replied, pulling a cigarette and a light from his shirt pocket. “Because it means I can have another fag now…”

“Don’t!” I cried, slapping it out of his hand.

He glared at me. “You know, I think its kind of arrogant to assume either of us could have possibly started the fire,” he said. “Fire is a natural phenomenon, my friend, and a very powerful one at that. To think that we, mere humans could cause it? Such arrogance…”

“What the flying fuck are you talking about?” I wailed. “Humans control fires all the time. And cause them! And its still irrelevant, because regardless of where the fire came from, we need to get the fuck out of here!”

“The thing is, though,” Jim continued, picking his cigarette back up and lighting it as the flames licked their way closer. “Fires are, as I said, a natural phenomenon. They’ve happened before in various places and will continue to happen in various places. It’s not really anything to worry about. I don’t know why nature scares you so much!” He gave a short laugh.

I stared at him for a few seconds, wondering if the fire would give me a merciful lobotomy before coming to my senses. “Fine,” I said. “Have it your way. But I’m not staying here.” I ran to the patio doors and yanked at the handle. Locked. And where was the key?

“Jim!” I hollered, my eyes starting to water from the smoke. “Where’s the key for this door?”

“I’ve got it.”

“Could I have it, please?”

“No. You don’t need it, and I might need it to get into my cigarette cupboard later.”

Christchurch Community Writing Project

Christchurch Community Writing Project

With Chasing Driftwood Writing Group


Who Are Chasing Driftwood Writing Group?

Chasing Driftwood Writing Group was set up by Hurn resident and local author, Chantelle Atkins in May 2015. The aim of the group is to provide creative writing workshops and clubs to adults and children across Dorset. The group runs a fortnightly adult writing group at Portfield Hall, and puts on writing workshops for children in the school holidays. Chasing Driftwood has also run adult workshops at Christchurch Library, and Chantelle has been involved in running workshops for Dorset Writers Network at various events across Dorset. In December 2017 Chasing Driftwood became a Community Interest Company (Company No. 11111581). The aims of the group remain the same; to encourage and inspire creative writing across Dorset through events, workshops, clubs and projects.

What is the Christchurch Community Writing Project?

The Christchurch Community Writing Project is an idea inspired by the brilliant community writing project at Colehill and by the anthology This Little World, orchestrated by Dorset Writers Network. Both these projects encouraged local people to write about their community, and an anthology of stories was produced and published. Both books are now able to bring in much needed funds for further community projects. These projects were structured with meetings and workshops, encouraging local people to attend, and inspiring writers from all backgrounds to submit their work. Feedback and mentoring was offered. Both projects had a positive effect on residents lives and on the community as a whole. Chasing Driftwood, inspired by these community writing projects, decided to orchestrate a similar project, covering the whole of Christchurch. Chantelle from Chasing Driftwood was involved in the This Little World project and has received mentoring support from Tracy Baines, who was integral to the Dorset Writers Network Project and the Colehill anthology.

Why do we think this is important?

Chasing Driftwood think writing is very, very important! Writing is proven to be a therapeutic activity, a way of expressing thoughts and emotions, a way of making sense of the world and perhaps even more importantly today, a way of making a connection to the world. Community projects are vital to social cohesion and inclusivity. Christchurch is a large area, inhabited by people from all walks of life and backgrounds. We think writing is extremely beneficial to both the individual and society. Bringing people together to talk about Christchurch, to express opinions and fears, to share happy memories, to discuss the changes they have seen and their worries or expectations for the future, will be an invaluable activity. Through this project, people will be able to express their views and be heard. We are looking forward to engaging with children and young adults, as well as retired people and vulnerable groups. We want to hear from everyone and encourage as many people as possible to get writing!

Who can submit to the anthology?

Anyone who lives in Christchurch, has lived in Christchurch or who has a connection to the area

What can they submit?

We are looking for fictional stories, non-fiction, memories, journals, poetry, flash fiction, articles and even interviews. Our only rule is that it must not exceed 2,000 words and it must be linked to Christchurch.

How Will Be People Be Encouraged/Inspired to Write and Submit?

We will be putting on a number of workshops across the area over a period of two years. We will be holding workshops in the library and in many local community halls and centres. We will be going into schools and retirement homes, and reaching out to charities who support the homeless in order to reach vulnerable people. All the workshops/events will be free for residents to attend.

Who will be running the workshops?

The workshops will be run by professional writers with experience of public speaking.

What will be the final result?

The final result will be a beautiful anthology of stories, poems, articles, memories and more, all written by the residents of Christchurch, aged 5 years and up. The front cover will be designed by a local young artist. The anthology will be professionally edited, proofread and formatted and then published via Amazon and made available to purchase via other online retailers. There will be an ebook and a paperback version. We hope the local library and independent bookshops will agree to stock it.

How will this project help the community?

This project will help the community in the short term by bringing people together to work on a community project. It will encourage and inspire people to write and keep writing. It will help people feel more connected to their community and to others. In the long term, the project will be beneficial as sales of the anthology will go straight back into the company and be used to fund further creative writing e

‘Bleary Eyed…’

(A collaborative short story by the children from Chasing Driftwood Writing Group)

Bleary eyed, I went down for breakfast. The house was empty…even the furniture had gone…I ran out the front door, realising even the car was gone. I turned and looked at the house. It was slowly fading as if it hadn’t been there at all. A small pain occurred in my head. I started to wonder what I was looking at. I had never seen that house. Memories exploding, I ran, forgetting everything I had previously seen…

Even though I had forgotten things, I remembered just one tiny thing…the strange house. I went inside and saw and heard a time machine. I got in, strapped myself in and clicked on a place in history to go to…

A shrill cry echoed in the mist…History…But not as I knew it. Children screaming ran in my ears, the stench of death filled my nostrils. Pterosaurs, Napolean, Emporers, Pharoahs and the Black Death laid before my eyes. There was another ear piercing cry as a blistered child fell beneath my feet. What happened?

I screamed and jumped back. Ugh, I couldn’t stand death. I had to get back home. Well, what used to be my home. A sharp pain ran down my arm. My eyes slowly glanced to it but what I saw wasn’t my skin. I’d seemingly aged about 46.7 years.

Slowly, I limped back to the time machine, ready to punch in the year number. But my hand was so weak, it just touched the button and crumpled up. I was trapped in London ith the Black Death right beside me. I couldn’t decide what to do. So I dived into the River Thames.

I got stung many times by strange fish. I found land and got out. A scary character flung itself out of nowhere and nearly killed me…

Then all of a sudden, the character disappeared. Gone. I dragged my feet along the ground as water dripped from my hair. ‘ Wales’ I sighed, as I noticed a sign in the corner of my eye for Swansea. ‘God, I hate Swansea.’ I sighed once more as I slumped down beside the sign, surrounded by used needles.

‘Oh God, I hate needles,’ I groaned to myself, pushing the pile away. At the bottom was something shining. I picked it up, my hands shaking. It was a knife, covered in fresh blood. My eyes rolled into my head and I blacked out.

When I work up, I found the knife again, but this time, it was in me.

(Written by Eleanor aged 14, Daisy aged 14, Eleanor aged 10, Dylan aged 10)