September 11th

September 11, 2016

Fifteen years ago I was driving back into work when I heard, on the radio, that a light aircraft had flown into one of the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. By the time I’d passed through security at the gate and pulled into a car parking space, a second plane had hit the second tower. I went icy cold. That couldn’t have been a coincident.

I went into reception and it was packed. Dozens of my fellow scientists and engineers were staring, transfixed, on the live pictures coming from the BBC. Smoke billowing from the Twin Towers, violent gashes ripped into them…

I went to my office. I rang home. Spoke to my wife, Vee, a few days overdue with our first child, oblivious to the moment that changed the world. We had the ‘What kind of world are we bringing a child into?’ conversation.

Milly was born three days later and I did what I always planned to do. I bought an armful of newspapers and put a four hour tape in the video recorder (remember those?) and selected BBC News 24. Those papers still make for a heartbreaking, tear inducing read.

Today, Facebook, is naturally, filled with untold numbers of images from that dark day, however, I have to thank Facebook for giving me one little glimmer of light. Six years ago, WordWatchers had one of its last in-house short story competitions, the theme was ‘Stranded’. I won, with a Science Fiction story called ‘We are The Stranded’. It was the only time I won, and given we don’t do short story competitions any more (we talk about resurrecting the format again, but so far, it’s just that, talk), it is likely to be the only one I ever win.

Happy John


That story went into our first short story anthology, ‘Out of Time’ (which I also designed the cover for*).

Out Of Time

OK, I say first, but I mean ‘only’ because, although we had plans to do more, including one based around our first visit to Symondsbury Manor, we never did. The short story competitions and the anthologies, ironically, fell foul of the group’s success. As key members moved on, others became agented or got publishing deals and the hamster wheels began to squeak, there was only time for writing that publishers wanted, the short story competition withered on the vine.

So today is a strange day. I look at my beautiful eldest daughter, sitting just across from me now as I write this, writing herself, a monologue for English homework, and I think of what a world she’s being brought up in – that the 3,000 souls who perished on 9/11 are but the tiny tip of a huge iceberg, of the millions who have died in, or fled from, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Her monologue is going to be about 9/11, so we have come full circle in that respect.

I think about the WordWatchers of six years ago, think about the success Katherine Webb, Charlotte Betts and Abbie Rushton have achieved since and I am immensely proud of what this tiny little group has achieved. Then I think about our summer and Christmas parties, the buzz of the competition results and I miss those things and I think the group is missing them too…


* The background wood effect was added by committee – I remain unconvinced that it adds anything (fully accepting that I was, and still am, quite precious over my original, plain white background design).

Please follow and like us:

The Palace of Lost Dreams

Charlotte Betts, 7th Novel has been shortlisted for the RNA 2019 'Best Historical Romantic Novel'.

Read more »

‘Forging ahead…’

The ForgeWW member John Hoggard's short story 'Elemental Sacrifice' features in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Anthology 'The Forge: Fire and Ice', which was released in July 2019.

Read more »

Creative Writing Escapes

CWECreative Writing Escapes

WW member Charlotte Betts and former member Danielle Auld have something wonderful to offer you.

Cleared for launch!

Elite Encounters Elite Encounters is a Role-Playing Game set in the Elite: Dangerous Universe and is the work of David 'Selezen Lake' Hughes. It features drabbles from John Hoggard.

Read more »

How to survive a critique


WordWatchers is reviewing one full novel a month. By the end of 2017, it will have critiqued 7 novels. 5yrs after she wrote it, Abbie's blog about the process is still very relevant.

Read more »

Recent Posts

@WordWatchers Twitter

Follow @WordWatchers on twitter.