We are writers who meet in Clerkenwell in the London Borough of Islington – though few of us live anywhere near the place. Most of us are relatively sane, whatever that means: we call ourselves an asylum because the word means a place of refuge. But we’re open to different interpretations.
Clerkenwell has an interesting history and many literary associations. Past residents and habitués include Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens and Anthony Horowitz, Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith, poet John Weever, and the pioneer librarian James Duff Brown. The earthly remains of Defoe, William Blake and John Bunyan lie in the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. Clerkenwell is home to the Free Word Centre (our usual meeting place) and the Betsey Trotwood pub, named after one of Dickens’ characters and itself a noted literary venue. The Guardian and Observer once had their offices just up Farringdon Road. And literature is only part of the story. The area is steeped in blood, villainy and sedition. We’re in good company. It encourages us to do better.
There was once a real lunatic asylum in Clerkenwell but that’s another story.
What We Do
We write stories, from flash fiction to novels and all points between. Our aim is to encourage one another to write more, improve our technique and be ambitious in what we do. There are no restrictions on genre, content or style.
We meet once every fortnight to share and discuss each others’ fiction, ask for or give honest feedback, exchange ideas and generally discuss writing stories. It isn’t all earnest debate about adjectives, punctuation and story structure, mind you. We chat, gossip and tell bad jokes. Our meetings are relaxed and informal. Well aware that a desire to write has its own stresses, we don’t put pressure on people to produce texts or join in the critique, no one has to read their fiction aloud, and attendance is not compulsory. There are few rules, though we do expect people to pay their share of the meeting room hire and generally behave in a civilised way. There is no constution and we don’t work to formal agendas. Stories and other items for discussion are circulated in advance by e-mail.
We do other things. After meetings some or all of us will go to a nearby hostelry to chat and have a laugh and a drink. There are occasional social evenings. We have a Facebook page. We have this blog, where we air some of our stories and commit other stuff to cyberspace. A few of us have our own websites. Some of us like to enter our stories for competitions – we’ve even had a few winners. As a group, we occasionally publish collections of short stories as Kindle e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks. To date we have produced three of these.
One thing we don’t do is poetry. Writing stories is what we’re about. No one has yet brought along a play or film script but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
The Clerkenwell Writers Asylum blog has free-to-read flash fiction and short stories, reviews, opinion pieces and news. If you’re just visiting, feel free to have a look round and read the stories and other material posted here, and to use the ‘comments’ facility to let us know what you think about what we are doing.
Please note that only members or invited associates of the Clerkenwell Writers Asylum may post stories or other texts here.
It doesn’t matter if you have been writing for years and simply wish to interact with others who share a passion for writing; or if you’re just starting out. If you’re serious about writing and think we might be just what you need, please get in touch using the contact form below.
We hold meetings on Wednesday evenings roughly twice a month at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell (60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA) between 7.00 and 9.00 PM.
It isn’t advisable to just turn up on any Wednesday night, though. The meetings are not always fixed very far in advance, and we need to know how many people to expect, and who they are. We normally congregate beforehand in a nearby pub or café so that we can all go into Free Word together. If you do wish to attend a meeting to check us out, please make contact beforehand to find out when and where to meet us. And, just as importantly, how to recognise us!
Membership is free, on the understanding that the cost of hiring the venue will be shared equally among all members attending on the night. (Don’t worry – the venue hire is very reasonable.) We have no formal membership list, though it is understood that people who attend on a regular basis are members; while those who turn up only once and are never seen again are not. First-timers will not be expected to share the venue cost.