Already dizzy from a heavy night out across the interweb, you decide to take a short-cut home. This alley looks like it cuts some time off your journey. Your footsteps echo as the sounds from the street are left behind. A trashcan clatters over; a cat screeches. The shadows shift suspiciously. You become lost - this wasn't the simple short-cut you had anticipated.
But then there, piercing through the darkness in electric blue, a neon sign flickers: Critters Bar.
The name sounds familiar, you think. It's one of those phrases that you read somewhere, and once the name is implanted in your mind, you hear it mentioned in passing whispers. But... Critters? Who are these Critters? Little creatures that scuttle in the shadows?
Curiosity draws you closer, and you feel like the proverbial moth.
'Can I help you?'
You hadn't expected there to be a bouncer at the door. Perhaps this is some kind of secret cult.
'Can... I come in?' you ask, a little unsure of yourself.
'Of course. Everyone is welcome.'
You step towards the door, but the bouncer blocks your way. You look at him, confused.
'Sign here, first,' he says.
A registration form? Sure, can't hurt. Nothing too probing is asked. You don't even have to give your real name.
You feel a tingling sense of excitment as you step past the bouncer. You climb the narror stairs. The sound of low music and chatting voices invite you up. You open the doors and see...
a regular bar, with a regular bunch of people. Some people are standing in small groups, holding martini glasses or pints of beer, laughing and joking. Others are huddled round tables, deep in conversation, taking notes. Many sit on their own, furiously scribbling stories onto paper napkins, or into little notebooks. It dawns on you who the 'Critters' are... They are writers. You've joined a creative writing group.
Suddenly the conversations stop. A barrage of writers shuffle towards you, extending welcoming hands to shake, offered drinks to take. Someone puts their arm around your shoulder and leads you to the bar.
'So, what'll it be? Post a story? Critique someone else's? Try the poetry challenge! Want to submit to the anthology?'
Yup. I'm plugging the writing forum Critters Bar again. This time with a whole post all to itself.
Critters Bar is an intimate writing forum of about a hundred members, all with different writing backgrounds. We welcome everyone. Here are just a few of the exciting things happening at the moment:
Story-a-Day July Blast
In the Creative Corner forums we have a Story-a-Day area. We're currently running a July Blast in there, where a small number of us are trying to write a story a day throughout the month. You don't have to write every day, just to average one a day, hopefully lasting out to the end with 31 freshly written stories (or poems, or non-fiction). Quality isn't an issue. The main thing is to sit down and write. If the work posted is a rough draft, that's fine. If it's polished, that's fine too. Typically, some of these will find their way to being published somewhere later.
Weekly 200-word flash challenge
A weekly 200-word challenge has been running for almost three years. Each week the previous challenge winner posts a single word prompt. Anyone wanting to take part that week posts a piece of flash, no more than 200 words in length, based on the prompt. The person who posted the prompt selects the winning post. Usually just for fun, but now and then a small cash prize (or some other prize) is on offer.
Weekly poetry challenge
Runs on the same lines as the flash challenge, above. The previous winner picks a theme, a style, and anyone participating writes a poem to suit. usually for fun, sometimes a small cash prize. Critters Bar evolved from a Short Story (only) site over at the East of the Web site, and more poets are always welcome.
Critters Bar Anthology
Last year, with support from Matt Ward, the editor of Skive Magazine, an anthology of members' short stories was self-published through Lulu. This was a souvenir anthology produced in 48 hours, after several aborted attempts in the prevous few years. This year we're planning to produce another anthology, selecting quality stories from the members. Exact dates and details still to be determined, but we're planning to have it available in time to fill people's Christmas stockings.
200 Word Anthology
Since the 200-word weekly challenges have been so popular over the years, we are now putting together a small anthology of various stories which are no more than 200 words in length. Choose your favourite challenge submission, or write something new. Only three more weeks to get your submissions in!
Hopefully, I'll see you at the bar. My username is Capulet. Drop me a PM if you join, or need any help, or want to have a chat.