Simon Brett, OBE Speaks to Hampshire Writer’s Society

Report by Peter Hitchen

The Society’s February gathering proved to be an occasion of great contrast, hosting Marian Forkin of The Book Bus charity and Simon Brett OBE, multi-award winning author of serialised crime fiction novels, radio and television producer and script-writer.

Special Guest:  Marian Forkin.

Marian explained that the fundamental aim of The Book Bus organisation was to enhance the life chances of children in Third World countries through the provision of books and libraries.  These are children who would otherwise be unable to develop their potential.  That simple truth was the catalyst for the formation of The Book Bus project in 2006 by founder, Tom Maschler, remembered as the publisher of Penguin, when he saw first-hand the sheer scarcity of books in the remote areas of Zambia that he was visiting.

The charity is now centred in Malawi, a country where only 5% of children receive a secondary education.  Marian shared a stark and inspirational example of how books can change lives by explaining how African boy, Kelvin Doe, invented a wind-powered electricity generator so that he would be able to read at home in the evenings.  It was Kelvin’s access to a book, helping him realise that simple but life-changing aim, that eventually led him to present at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a 15-year-old and finally to embark on a PhD in the United States of America.

Marian was keen to show how the ethos of The Book Bus organisation was based on a desire to promote enablement through access to books and thereby foster independence and self-determination.  The children accessing the programme have their reading levels monitored and are assessed and measured against standardised attainment targets so that individual progress is a tangible, organisational outcome.  The annual cost of running the Malawian programme is a modest £15k and similar projects seek to achieve equally beneficial outcomes across Africa, Asia and South America.

To round off an inspirational and very affecting presentation, Marian shared a video of the wonderful work that The Book Bus organisation is currently undertaking.  For more information on this important and far-reaching initiative, please visit: www.thebookbus.org

Keynote Speaker: Simon Brett, OBE

After graduating from university, Simon started a long career in both radio and  television, but it is as a prolific writer of crime fiction that he is perhaps most well known.  To date he is credited with over 80 crime fiction novels, his work comprising favourite collections including the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering, and Blotto & Twinks series.  Further to these much loved and intricately plotted books, Simon has also written successful non-series novels with his Shock to the System (1984) being produced as a film starring Michael Caine.

In 2014, in recognition of his lifetime achievement, Simon was awarded the Diamond Dagger for Crime Fiction and in 2016 he was invested with an Order of the British Empire.  Not bad for someone who started his working life as a Father Christmas in a London Department store!

The longevity and breadth of Simon’s success offers a wealth of practical  experience from which he can draw and from this he was able to relate valuable and grounded advice to new and seasoned scribblers alike.  Simon alluded to the idea that to choose to be a writer was by definition to choose a life, if not of loneliness, then solitariness.  For a large part writers have to be content in their own company while they create the worlds of fiction that their characters inhabit.

From Simon’s work in broadcasting – particularly his work in radio (a medium, he said, that lends itself particularly well to the writer)  – he found great inspiration for many of his story ideas and his future writing career.  His early adaptation of a Dorothy L Sayers ‘Lord Peter Wimsey’ adventure was the catalyst that launched him into full-time writing.  Perhaps it was the levity to be found in Sayers’ prose style that was to become part of the wonderful signature humour that underpins much of Simon’s work.  And to this end Simon was keen to explain that writers should not be bound or stifled by the accepted norms of a chosen genre and that taking narrative risk was key to writing with originality while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls of producing derivative material.  He was at pains to highlight the importance of giving characters dramatic moments and that these moments reward the reader as they progress through the story.

As a testament to Simon’s creative intellect,  he told the audience that involvement in the process of producing a first draft is where he finds the greatest artistic satisfaction; that while many writers toil over numerous re-drafts that approach wasn’t for him.

Simon’s presentation was packed with humour and anecdotes from his long and illustrious career.  The audience was treated to wonderfully informative practitioner’s advice communicated in a riveting and very entertaining raconteur’s after-dinner style.

February 2017 Competition Results – Carolin Esser-Miles

Yet again, Carolin Esser-Miles, Medievalist and Senior Lecturer, University of Winchester, went above and beyond with her adjudication. The competition title was ‘Create a detective with unusual or quirky habits’ in 300 words. Carolin was generous enough to write a few words for all entries, not only the placed five, very kind as feedback is always appreciated (I have emailed the comments to individual entrants). The winners are below, followed by the winning pieces with Carolin’s comments.

1st place: Nan Keightley – Mrs B and the Hoodie

2nd place: Wendy Fitzgerald – A New Pin

3rd place: John Quinn – Demi John

Commended: David Lea – Josna Pandi and Gill Hollands – Detective Farr, Homicide

1st Place

Mrs B and the Hoodie – Nan Keightley

Carolin Esser-Miles: Here we have the first encounter of a potentially great pair. The two strikingly different characters are both given enough space to come alive independently. Both have interestingly odd back stories that are promising in their own right. Within our 300 words, we see a dynamic developing between the two that promises sparring partners connected by mutual respect and a lot of scope for interaction. I would love to find out what happens next.

‘’Oo did you say you were, again?’ Mrs B defended her doorstep from the hoodie in front of her. She pulled a tattered arran cardi close across her stubby figure, and tutted. A warrant card was shoved towards her.

She handed it back, held between finger and thumb, as if contaminated. The cop’s overlarge parka, she noticed, was not quite hiding a gossamer-thin frame.

‘Well, DS Ellie Wilson, what do you want, besides a few good meals?’

‘Am I in the right place? I’m looking for Marina Beecham? The woman who shot Harry Winfield?’

‘Yes, kiddo. That’s me.’

Ellie gawped, speechless.

‘What?’ said Mrs B. ‘You don’t believe an all-action forensic psychologist could be old as Noah, and wear slippers? Or live in a suburban bungalow full of kitten ornaments and chintz?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘Didn’t need to. I read your mind.’

Mrs B shuffled into the kitchen. She pushed a plate of homemade gingerbread at Ellie, who hovered by the door.

‘Come on. I’m not going to eat you.’

‘The boss said you could help us find Angelika Harrison’s killer,’ mumbled Ellie, through a mouthful of crumbs.

Mrs B replaced the empty plate with a pile of potatoes and a peeler.

‘Where did that lot go?’ she asked. ‘Have you got hollow legs or something?’

‘The boss thinks I must have worms, ‘cos I can eat for England and never put on a pound.’

‘Hmmm. If you want my help then you can peel these spuds. Fish and chips do for you?’

‘You don’t have to feed me. I only need advice.’

‘Your boss didn’t tell you anything about me, did he? I cook. A lot. It helps me think. Nobody escapes this house unfed. Now, peel, and talk!’

2nd place

A New Pin – Wendy Fitzgerald

Carolin Esser-Miles: We spend these 300 words following our detective through a surprising amount of well-placed garden paths and detours. Expectations are built up to deceive, and we are prone to fall into the trap just as the characters in the story are supposed to judge falsely. Upon rereading, we are presented with a cleaning detective, formerly from the Met, now working class Miss Marple. While the cover that cleaning provides will be quickly blown at the police station, the provision of holiday lets gives ample opportunity for undercover work.

I walk to work in the early light: it’s fresh, calm and serene. Little waves wash up on the shore; seagulls swoop and bicker. The sun rose ten minutes ago into the pearly dawn, a glowing, optimistic beacon. Peaceful, life-affirming. A far cry from my days at the Met, where dark, dingy streets festered every deadly sin; long nights in gloomy offices, desk lamps and single malts burning. Remembering, anxiety rises within me. I stare out to sea to cleanse my mind again. The lightest of breezes, deep breaths and the wide blue expanse expunge, as they always do.

I enter the police station and its main office. It’s tiny. What you’d expect in a remote backwater like this. A rare violent murder is reflected on the whiteboard: an attractive fifty-four year old woman, single, bludgeoned to death with her own rolling pin. No signs of burglary. She’d been baking, for the charity cake stall. As they do in these parts. I pick up the files but there’s nothing new since yesterday. She lived alone; in a cottage set back along a lane. Semi-detatched, but to a holiday let. No-one saw a thing.

My senses prickle. Worryingly, she looked not unlike me.

That will be my next job. The files in the holiday let company. It’s mid-summer: a popular spot. Then I’ll check the charity. Something tells me this is not a random killing: there was real hatred behind that pin.

I open the cupboard and remove the vacuum cleaner. Strangely, there’s cake crumbs on the floor. I clean three offices, three mornings a week. This one, the estate agent-come-letting company and the solicitors. You’ve no idea how useful that can be. Well, no-one ever notices the cleaner, do they?

3rd place

Demi John – John Quinn

Carolin Esser-Miles: One of the two character studies among the submissions, Demi John has a rather complex life. He is a single father with Olympic potential in clay shooting that is thwarted by his son’s football needs, this character needs space to be fully introduced. But given that, there is a lot of potential, especially with additional public settings such as the family café as an opportunity to blend family trouble with a potential case.

Demetrius Jones is a North London detective who’s second generation Greek-Cypriot, born in Palmers Green after his parents fled the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

To his colleagues he’s too Greek, to his parents and the Greek-Cypriot community he’s too British and he is never fully happy in either world.

Tall and swarthy, with black hair that is longer than normal and a full moustache, he’s handsome and he’s often told he looks like Tom Conti playing Costas Dimitriades in the film Shirley Valentine.

Demi-John, as he’s known by colleagues ‘because he’s big, never full and you can see straight through him,’ is running to seed, weighing some 100 kilos. He says ‘it’s a Greek thing’ and is trying to quit smoking and diet but cannot resist döner kebabs or his Mum’s mezes.

He looks younger than his 40 years ‘ever seen a crease on a balloon?’ is one of his ever-ready quips. He uses his natural warmth, humour and the ability to invent ‘an old Greek saying’ to win trust.

A North-London Turkish family killed Demi’s wife after he put away the patriarch and two eldest sons for a series of armed robberies.

Arsenal supporting Demi brings up his son, James, 12, with the help of his parents, who should be retired but still run the family café in ‘Palmers Greek.’

Taught to shoot by his father, Demi has a chance of representing Greece, Cyprus or the UK at the next Olympics at sporting clays but refereeing James’ football matches and work interferes with practice.

Demi listens to George Michael songs whilst driving his mustard 1974 Rover 3500 his Dad bought on arrival in the UK, spending the family’s savings: ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.’ It does break down!

Commended

Josna Pandi – David Lea

Carolin Esser-Miles: Josna Pandi will most likely not have many friends. She is too perfect in most ways. But other great detectives have demonstrated that success through unflattering habits is possible. One might think of the Mentalist, Sherlock Holmes, or Stella Gibson from ‘The Fall’.

Josna Pandi is thirty years old. She is a Detective Constable with the Hampshire Constabulary and is on the “Police High Potential Development Scheme”.

Her father, Sanjit Pandi, manufactures textiles in India and imports them into Britain and Europe. He is a rich man and Josna does not have to work. Her mother died in childbirth and Josna has no siblings. She has lived in Britain all her life and went to Cheltenham Ladies’ College where she was captain of the lacrosse team. She is an accomplished horsewoman and dinghy sailor. She has also represented her country as a fencer. She lifts weights and is highly proficient in Hatha Yoga. She keeps dumbbells in her locker at Basingstoke nick.

She gained a first in Law at Edinburgh and then joined Goldman Sachs. She was doing extremely well until asked to take part in a deal that she believed to be unethical. She then joined Mckinsey Global Management Consulting, but resigned after her paper on plans to rationalise the delivery of policing concluded that more police were needed on the beat.

Her “quirks” are attributes or character flaws, depending on who is at the receiving end. She has a fierce intelligence, combined with a frighteningly accurate moral compass. She is unafraid to “speak truth to power” and is disconcertingly honest in both personal and professional interactions. She believes in the rule of law and in the need to uphold the law, even when the law is an ass. She has an upper middle class accent and speaks and writes English with great precision. She is unusually tall, has very dark skin and long, jet-black hair. She has a habit of adopting extreme yoga positions when she needs to solve a problem. She is very beautiful, but has difficulties maintaining romantic relationships.

Commended

Detective Farr, Homicide – Gill Hollands

Carolin Esser-Miles: Here we are dealing with a true quirk, both the ferret as partner and the sensory abilities of the detective themselves. There is potential here, for a ‘just right’ over the top storyline á la Monk, which needs to play out as realistically as possible and as relevant for the cases.

‘This way, Detective Farr.’ The dubious constable pushes open a battered door. Sunlight floods into the dingy corridor. I look down, blinking.

Merit pokes his nose out of my yellow waterproof pocket for another snack. I fish a pellet from inside my hat; avoid sharp little teeth as he snatches.

‘What the ‘ell’s that?’ The constable steps back, eyes round.

‘It’s just my sniffer ferret.’ I hook Merit out, dangle his snaky body. ‘See?’ I set him down to start work.

‘Ha! Never ‘erd of one o’ them!’ He backs away, shaking his head. The usual reaction.

‘He’s very helpful to me, officer.’

Watching Merit, I sniff too as he scuttles under a chair. The scent of despair assails me. I wince, catching my haggard reflection in a spotted mirror: Must try to sleep soon.

I take in the crime scene; a tragic apartment; peeling grey walls, rank, mould-coated ceiling. My fingers scrape neglected wood; I taste betrayal. Dust is often my friend. Merit brings me a wrap of paper, darts away, sneezing.

A coffee table lies on its side in a splash of magazines. Yellowed, photos curl on the wall around one threadbare, fireside chair in the corner.

Ragged curtains shiver by the smashed window. I step nearer, my feet sticking to the mat. Broken glass lies, sparkling like a snowflake, on the mossy balcony.

I tug open the balcony door, admitting more freezing wind.

‘You kin see that from inside!’ Yells the officer, gasping behind me.

‘I think better outside.’ I step out, shut his whining off with the door. Now I can think. I fondle the wrap, the scuffed moss, feel where he was thrown…

‘Outside eh! So that’s why the yeller coat!’ He flings the door open, breaks the spell.

Watson, he is not…

New Course: On-Air Drama – Writing for Radio

Hugh Costello, best known for writing the ten-time Emmy nominated teleplay Bernanrd and Doris, is running a Writing for Radio one-day course next month.

Tickets for the course have just gone on sale but it hasn’t been officially publicised yet so now’s the time to get in early.

About the course

Radio and other audio platforms offer a huge opportunity for new drama writers to pursue unusual and ambitious projects with a realistic prospect that they will be produced. This one-day course focuses on the special demands of writing for radio, exploring the best ways to turn those voices in your head into intriguing and suspenseful dramas.

  • What kinds of stories work best for the ear?
  • How does a writer grab the audience’s attention from the very beginning of a story?
  • What are the best ways to to create distinctive characters and sustain suspense?

You will learn how to structure and present radio drama scripts, and how to go about pitching stories to commissioners and producers, both in the indie sector and at the BBC and Audible.

The course will be led by writer Hugh Costello, and will include a session with Boz Temple-Morris of Holy Mountain Productions.  Hugh is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter who has written more than two dozen audio dramas, and has worked with indies such as Big Fish and Whistledown Productions.  Boz is a leading audio producer/director and recent winner of Best Drama Producer at the Audio Production Awards .

When: Friday 24 February 2017
Where: Central London venue, TBC
Time: 9.30am-5pm
Cost: £130 + Vat – book your place at v1.bookwhen.com/rigtrain

 

Portsmouth Book Fest 2017

The Portsmouth Book Fest starts on Saturday 11 February and runs through till the beginning of March.

There are many varied events from ghosts and criminology to Morty and knitting!

Costs vary also depending on who, what, where and how long your chosen event is, many are free though! Follow the link to book.

http://www.portsmouthbookfest.co.uk/2017-programme/

Your Idea Transferred to Radio

Report by Andy Machin

At their first meeting of 2017 Hampshire Writers’ Society members were treated to the humour and wisdom of two renowned exponents of the art of non-fiction writing and radio documentary production respectively.

Special guest: John Andrews, foreign correspondent and local author The World in Conflict john-andrews-foreign-correspondent

First to the University of Winchester Stripe Theatre stage was John Andrews. John began his career in the 1970s teaching in Libya and the Lebanon but on the advice of ABC News anchor and friend Peter Jennings, he migrated to journalism to follow and report on Middle Eastern and North African politics, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the strategies of OPEC.

‘Being a foreign correspondent is more fun than being an editor,’ he confesses, ‘because you get to see history being made right in front of you.’

Like many an efficacious person, John attributes a good degree of his success to being in the right place at the right time whilst admitting, ‘I gained access [to news] not only via people I knew but also through the people I worked for.’

As a foreign correspondent John has worked for some of the most widely-respected television and print news organisations in the world including ABC, NBC, the Guardian and the Economist.

John is now using his transferrable journalistic skills to explain events to another audience through his latest book The World in Conflict: Understanding the world’s troublespots, candidly advising non-fiction authors to ‘know your audience and the possible repercussions of [the content of] your writing.’

Main speaker: David Prest, founder and MD of Whistledown Productions

From page to ear

david-prest-md-of-whistledown-productions‘Radio is a fantastic medium to bring new work into nuance post-Brexit,’ pronounces David Prest with a cheeky grin.

David entered mainstream radio broadcasting on joining the BBC staff in the 1980s. He worked on productions for Radio 4 and the World Service and stayed with the corporation until 1997.

In 1998 David founded radio production company Whistledown successfully combining ‘journalistic principles with creative flair,’ and producing documentary/non-fiction content which is ‘exciting and fun,’ and ‘differentiates from the mainstream.’ We assume his mainstream reference is to Auntie Beeb although David freely admits his main market is the corporation placing Whistledown currently as the largest independent speech provider to the BBC, an achievement of which he is rightly proud.

In an illuminating behind-the-scenes resumé of the submission process, David advises jobbing writers that for their non-fiction content to translate readily to radio documentary it should contain the ‘juicy bits only,’ and provide the ‘essential narrative trail.’ The writer should use language which is ‘visceral and grabby.’ David also reminds us that radio lacks the benefit of visuals found in TV production and therefore encourages us to ‘write for the ear,’ to tease and to provide ‘audio pageturners.’

Prior to submission, David advises writers to ask themselves questions such as is the idea new? Is it exciting/interesting/relevant enough? Is it sustainable, perhaps beyond a one-off and into a series? Is it covered elsewhere, perhaps within the series format of another programme? And not least, to decide how best to pitch the idea?

On finding a producer David suggests that the candidate should be ‘genuinely engaged [with the content],’ and ‘respectful of [the writer’s] input.’

Likewise, David advises writers to ask themselves what role they want in the production and what it is they wish to get from the process. Options in this respect may range from the writer being either the presenter, a contributor, a consultant or having a ‘by line’ or a simple credit. The writer may also wish to use the programme to further promote themselves and their work or to go on to co-own the format with the production company.

 

January 2017 Competition Results – David Prest

January 2017 Competition Results

David Prest, founder and MD of Whistledown Productions, set a precedent at January’s meeting. The competition was to ‘Write a proposal for a radio production involving a local building, landmark, personality or area of interest.’ Having chosen five entrants, David changed our normal format and invited them to present their work live on Tuesday evening. All five took to the stage to read out their 200-word entry. He followed their reading with a quick question and answer session before asking the audience to vote on the entry that they thought was most saleable. The results and proposals are below:

1st Place: Lynda Lawrence – Jane Austen’s Bicentenary

2nd Place: John Quinn – Never Break the Chain

3rd Place: Wendy Fitzgerald – Beauty’s Rose

Highly Commended: Rosie Sutcliffe and David Lea 

 

1st – Jane Austen’s Bicentenary by Lynda Lawrence

2017 will be the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death.

A few days after Jane died, her sister Cassandra wrote to their cousin:

“She was the sun of my life, the guilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, it is as if I had lost a part of myself.”

This letter could form the basis of a radio production that explores the more intimate relationships that Jane Austen had with her sister, family and also with the place where she lived – her beloved Chawton, where she wrote the majority of her novels.

The production could explore:

– Jane’s day-to-day life, her visits to her brother at Chawton House and how she connected to the broader community.

– The impact of her death on Cassandra and those close to her, how they mourned and the probable causes of her death.

– Interviews with Jane Austen experts, well known writers and actors who have played her characters.

– Jane’s connection with Winchester and her burial in Winchester cathedral.

– The impact of her writing on successive generations and as an important part of literary education.

– Events to mark the bicentenary.

2nd – Never Break the Chain by John Quinn

This proposal is to tell the story of the Isle of Wight’s fascinating and anachronistic floating-bridge, as it bangs close its metal safety gates and clanks its underwater chains for the last time after 168 years of service to Prince and pauper.

Both the nation’s sailing capital and the door to the Isle of Wight, Cowes grew along the banks of the River Medina, but has never boasted a bridge.

Instead it has relied upon the chain ferry, as much part of the island’s DNA as the Needles, to join its two halves and keep the island’s economy alive.

A sleek, modern, diesel-powered ferry replaces it in 2017 and will ensure commuters are dry and warm, delivery vans have a speedy connection and holiday makers no longer endure the infamous ferry queues. It will be nothing like its wind-blown, noisy, dirty and charming predecessors.

With a linking narrator and wealth of archive audio, new atmospheric sounds from the busy, working river and interviews with past and present ferry captains, commuters, holiday makers and business owners we can bring its history, and future, alive in a charming but insightful and compelling feature.

3rd – Beauty’s Rose by Wendy Fitzgerald

An hour long programme exploring the highly contradictory and controversial life of Henry Wriothesley: 3rd Earl of Southampton – Tudor/Stuart man of mystery, intrigue and action.

In the style of a Journalist report on ‘the life of’ … with experts and interviews.

“See his monument in Titchfield Church; his home, the romantic Titchfield Abbey. Walk his canal to the Haven. Look for the ‘Iron Mill’ names, after his works.

Who really was the Earl of Southampton?

The Fair Youth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets? What exactly was his relationship to the Bard? Jailed in the Fleet for eloping with Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting; co-conspirator of the Essex Rebellion – who persuaded the Queen to spare him, whilst Essex and the other rebels were executed? Why did King James free him from the Tower on his accession? Why was he re-arrested in 1604?

Colonialist, industrialist, canal-builder: he tried to enrich Titchfield – but they burnt his effigy at their carnivals. Handsome, favoured courtier – but hated by many, including the King’s favourite, Buckingham. Patron and lover of literature, poetry and plays – yet hardened soldier, serving in Ireland and Holland, dying there with his son.

Enter his rich exciting world – and decide for yourself!”

Highly Commended

A Head Of Plaited Hair by Rosie Sutcliffe

I would like to offer a fifteen minute, local interest radio play inspired by the fascinating and unusual artefact on display at Romsey Abbey.

This is a head of plaited hair, long, lustrous, beautiful auburn hair, discovered in a lead coffin in 1839, having survived the skeleton and any other remains of the lady that it once adorned, believed to have lived in mid to late Saxon period.

Through a one act, four scene play I will attempt to bring to life this woman, using historical evidence with some speculation to shed light upon this amazing local mystery.

Scene one introduces two local teenagers entering the abbey reluctantly to embark upon a history project they are drawn to the macabre yet beautiful hair and quiz the local churchwarden.

Scene two involves the three key characters involved in the discovery of the lead coffin and its bizarre contents, the moment of discovery.

Scene three is a speculative reconstruction of how the Saxon lady may have lived, who she was and how she died.

Scene four brings us back to present day, highlighting how the history around us still impacts and touches us today.

A Hampshire Retreat by David Lea

There is a meadow near Twyford that slopes down to a valley and which contains the remains of an iron-age settlement. At the top of the meadow is a Victorian reservoir comprised of huge cisterns that are mostly underground: cavernous, domes of brick swirling in precise arcs from floor to ceiling and back to floor again.

In the 1980s the reservoir was converted into a bunker for the great and good of Hampshire in the event of a nuclear war. It is made of reinforced concrete and has blast-proof doors, air locks, showers and decontamination rooms.

A company that analysed virus threats to nationwide computer systems used the building after it was decommissioned in 1997, but it is now home to The Natural Death Centre, which specialises in non-religious funerals. Permission has recently been given to develop the site as a dwelling.

The programme would tell the story of the building and its immediate environment, of the people who built it, of those who have used it in the past and of those will take it into the future. It would use scripted speech, interview and soundscape. The ¼ hour after World at One on Radio 4 would be ideal.

 

 

 

HWS Are Looking for Two New Committee Posts

Publicity Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Publicity Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To publicize the events organized by the Hampshire Writers’ Society.

2) To use, for publicity purposes, an already existing list of contacts, and to seek to add to this list of contacts.

3) To attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events, and to assist in the smooth running of these events.

4) To attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee (normally at 4.00 p.m., on the third Thursday in the month, at West Downs, University of Winchester, Romsey Road, Winchester SO22 5HT).

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Publicity Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, a vacancy has arisen with regard to the position of Publicity Manager on the Society’s Organizing Committee. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

Website Manager

The new member of the Organizing Committee will have the job title ‘Website Manager’. He or she will be required to perform the following duties.

1) To manage the Hampshire Writers’ Society website, see hampshirewriterssociety.co.uk.

2) To receive postings for the website from other members of the Society’s Organizing Committee and to include these materials in the website’s general management, without any other person adding postings to the website.

3) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Tuesday-evening events and to assist in the smooth running of these events; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

4) As an option, to attend the Society’s monthly Thursday-afternoon meetings of its Organizing Committee; attendance is optional rather than a requirement.

Hampshire Writers’ Society will undertake to provide the Marketing Manager with a designated e-mail address (if required); it will not be possible to provide desk space or a computer. The Society runs on a goodwill basis, which means that all the positions on its Organizing Committee are unpaid.

From its foundation in 2011 the Hampshire Writers’ Society has grown steadily, in terms of both its membership and its range of operations. Recently, the Society’s Organizing Committee has decided to add a Website Manager to its membership. The Society is now looking to fill this vacancy and invites expressions of interest, ahead of the Organizing Committee’s next scheduled meeting on 12 January 2017.

 

Techniques in Comics and Graphic Novel Writing with Pat Mills

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Comics writing has its own rules and these are different to those of graphic novels, Pat Mills tells us. A graphic novel is more of a creative expression.

Pat admits getting himself into trouble over his firm beliefs that the reason for comics’ demise, especially in the girls’ aged 7 & 8 year olds market, is down to the lack of love and care from their eager-to-move-on young women creators. Snobbery settled into publishing turning it elite. The title of Editor of girls’ comics such as Jinty was seen as a blot on the writer’s CV, nobody wanted these roles and the comics folded. Added to which; sophistication took over, comic cons were held, readers defected to America and the 7/8 year olds’ market was lost. A trend of merging comics raised sales. But this was temporary; the readers had been cheated.

The storytelling formula of Robert McKee was then adopted by mainstream comics publishing. 2000AD took this formula and whittled it down to its bare bones.

  • Key to girls’ story lines is that the heroine must be proactive – a modern day MistyPatMillsCinderella. All sorts of terrible things may happen to her, some of which horrify parents but the market has proven their love for these storylines. In hundreds of years, tastes have not changed. Heroines have become harsh. Or is this how writers are showing their many layers?
  • A cruel or upstaging parent is a taboo! The heroine can be given a wicked uncle, teacher, step parent, but their own mother and father must always be good people.
  • Friendship is the all important element for girls’ storylines.mistyannual1979

Pat learned these lessons the hard way. In the 7/8 year olds market, both girls and boys are bitterly outspoken and Pat has received hate mail for the wrong storyline. A Comic’s storyline deadline may be only weeks ahead of the reader giving the editor the freedom to shout for a failing storyline to be ‘killed.’ Beware though; churning out what works can bring a writer down. Keep the readership at the forefront – the storyline must be wrapped-up properly.

Avoiding the tyranny of the mainstream publishing world; Pat and his wife, Lisa, set up their own publishing imprint. Their list of publishing professionals possess one main difference – they are friendly, helpful and on-line.

It is entirely possible for a mainstream comic to feature an anti-establishment storyline. If mainstream, e.g. Marvel, is your style then traditional routes of submission can work. The trick is to keep the Sci-Fi storyline from becoming simply escapism.

Pat’s advice to writers wanting to break into the comics’ market is to use the indie publishers – assuming of course that you are not up against the economic clock! Study your market. Use the free web comics.

Evidence of a girls’ comics market is provided by the success of Manga. ‘Finding an artist is a whole talk of its own,’ Pat points out.

reademandweepPat Mills’s latest project, Read Em and Weep is in the form of a book consisting of formal prose about Dave Maudlin a ‘Young Foggie’ suspended in the time of Gam Rock’s era of mainstream comics writing. It is not a biography, he tells us. It does, however, feature many of the ironies which have plagued Pat throughout his career.

 

December 2016 Competition Results – Catherine Wild

December 2016 Competition Results

December’s adjudicator was Catherine Wild, Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Winchester. Catherine is a PhD candidate on Comics Writing, with particular reference to Pat Mills, so is perfectly placed to adjudicate a competition titled ‘Introduce a new comics character’ with one picture if desired. Entries were plentiful and Catherine took time to enjoy them before writing her comments, which are below.

1st Place: Honey Stavonhagen – Piccolo Pine

2nd Place: Scott Goldie – Barb

3rd Place: Damon L Wakes – Captain Redundanc

Highly Commended: Wendy Fitzgerald – I am Freyja and Rosie Sutcliffe – Verda Beech

 

1 st  – Piccolo Pine by Honey Stavonhagen

piccolo-pine

Catherine Wild: Chosen for its full and clear character description, excellent layout and originality. It is believable and quite charming.

Name: Piccolo Pine

Power: She can control music and sounds. Manipulates musical staves to solve problems (a bit like Spiderman’s web-shooters).

Physical appearance: Six-year-old girl, curly afro pigtails, freckles, 1.15m tall. Horizontal black and white striped t-shirt (staves).

Origin Story: Piccolo’s mother, Octavia (piccolo player) wore a magical chime pendant around her bump during pregnancy. Her mother died in childbirth, but her father, Quentin (a composer) placed Octavia’s piccolo in the baby’s cot to soothe her hoping some of the mother’s breath would still be inside the instrument. The first time Piccolo blew into it, a string of notes flew across the room, picked up a toy duck and brought it back to her.

Superhero Personality: Gregarious, loyal and a good listener. Has perfect pitch and names the tones and keys of everyday sounds: car horns, doorbells, sirens. She loves a ‘drop of silence’ when she’s tired.

Trademark: Her pigtails make the shape of treble clefs when she is playing the piccolo.

Alter-Ego Personality: Bubbly and full of questions, she has a tantrum if she’s ever told she can’t do something because she’s too young.

Sidekick: Wild blackbird called Maestro who lives in her garden. He is the sage, teaching her useful/powerful tunes to help sad or lonely children/adults.

Tragic Flaw: She often forgets the tunes, or which magic melody does what. She loves to play for pleasure but her improvised compositions sometimes get her into trouble.

Community Relationship: Only Maestro knows of her abilities. He is training her up to be a maestro (magical, musical do-gooder) like him.

Colour palette: Grayscale colourway on plain white background, yellow boots and beak. Newspaper print for buildings/trees.

Main Enemies: People who hate music or tell her to be quiet. The noise polluters: diggers, motorways, loud noises that drown out all others. ­­­­

 

2nd – Barb by Scott Goldie

barb

Catherine Wild: Chosen for its attention to detail, character history and believable protagonist. I particularly liked the collaborative aspect between SG and IG, as illustrator.

Barb, a feisty goblin warrior, doesn’t cut an imposing figure. Young, small, slight of build, she hardly looks formidable. But Barb is lightning fast, her fierce determination making up for her lack of stature.

And Barb has landed her dream job: chasing magical beasts for the Creature Retrieval Service. Craving adventure, Barb wants to fight trolls and discover the best way to capture giants.

So far, all she’s learnt is that catching gnomes is very, very boring.

Brought up in Mildew by her blacksmith mother, Barb’s favourite toy as a goblet* was her wooden sword. Much of her young life was spent at the Arena, watching the warriors face the hazards of The Gauntlet. Her admiration of these tall, swaggering figures made her believe that a true warrior doesn’t need friends, shouldn’t feel fear and should never, ever put aside their weapons.

Barb has green, almond shaped eyes and sharp features. A warrior’s topknot ties up her long, black hair and a small pale scar runs through her left eyebrow. Barb’s mace and her notched short sword hang at her belt, her buckler shield from a strap on her back. She wears battered leather armour, the hide skirt cracked and split with age. At least second-hand, Barb reckons it’s older than she is. She thinks her nose too long.

Quick tempered, Barb can be impetuous and reckless. This hotheadedness leads her into an unwise wager with handsome, ruthless Quarrel, the leader of a rival squad.

Barb dreams of completing The Gauntlet and owning a suit of beautiful yale-horn scale armour. Her favourite smell is leather polish. She loves crumpets, properly toasted of course, and pickled snake’s eggs.

Barb must learn to trust her squad and desperately needs a friend.

Her greatest fears are looking foolish. And bats. She hates bats.

 

3rd –  Captain Redundancy by Damon L Wakes

capt-redundancy

Catherine Wild: It has not gone unnoticed that this submission seeks to parody the comic hero concept and indeed this competition itself, which I found to be quite refreshing. That said, the character is effective, as is his side kick Tautology Boy. The submission itself is very dry and errs on the side of metafiction.

Mild mannered jobseeker John Johnson by day, by night Capt. Captain “Redundancy” Redundancy is a superhero whose superpower is redundancy! Wherever there is crime and somebody is already dealing with it, Captain Redundancy will be there, his sidekick Tautology Boy by his side.

A dark and brooding figurehead of justice, Captain Redundancy spends his nights staring out over the city he is sworn to stare out over. As a symbol of his calling as a hero, he wears a pair of underpants over his tights in addition to the usual pair worn underneath. The outer pair are redunderpants. They are red. Captain Redundancy wears red redunderpants.

John Johnson gained his powers after a bite from a radioactive mosquito caused him to stumble into the path of a chemical truck full of vacuum cleaner cleaner. Following this workplace accident—which granted him the incredible powers of redundancy—he was made redundant. Having accepted Tautology Boy as his sidekick, Captain Redundancy’s sidekick became Tautology Boy. Tautology Boy’s powers of tautology are a natural and direct consequence of being Tautology Boy, whose power is tautology.

Villains across the city fear Captain Redundancy, for by the time they see him it is already too late: the arrival of his dreaded carmobile guarantees that some other superhero has doubtless foiled their plans already. Captain Redundancy will never respond to a crime unless his presence is completely redundant, and thus—in doing pretty much nothing of any consequence himself—he is a beacon of hope in dark times: not the hero the city needs, but the hero it doesn’t.

Also Tautology Boy is there too.

 

Highly Commended – I am Freyja by Wendy Fitzgerald

Catherine Wild: For its ability to characterise through prose and attention to plot set-up.

After the Apocalypse of 2120, those who lived became Undergrounders.

Named from the underground railways where we first survived, we burrowed vast networks of foodfarms, living off fungi-base and lampcrops whilst the earth above us died.

Now 2270, food is short; conflicts erupt, led by Frage, a malcontent. We have learnt nothing.

Of late, the Overland recovers: rich jungle now covers barren wasteland. My people fear the Outside; shun its promise. But I love its wild beauty.

Lost there one day, Gaya rescues me. She is beautiful, youthful, but her tree marks show she is old compared to Undergrounders. She shows me her food growing in earth; tells of her people hiding from Undergrounders who kill them. Returns me to my homegate safely. Gaya is kind.

I stop trusting Undergrounder teachings; only Gaya’s. I sneak away often to find her.

We grow plants in her earth; craft from wood; are at one with the Outside.

But one day, too late, I find her wounded; she dies in my arms. Grief overcomes me: I hold her body until it is cold, but her warmth still courses through my veins.

I bury Gaya in her earth. Line up twigs to mark her grave. They burst into leaf.

Shocked, I move away, line up more twigs. They too leaf. I scatter seed: it crops in hours.

It seems she has given me … a gift.

So this is my quest: I must find out what this portends. Find Gaya’s people, see who they are; learn how to use this gift for good, not evil.

With it, Undergrounders could move Overland. Without it, we fight and die.

But Undergrounders hunt Overlanders down. There will be hatred, violence and more war.

Do I share this gift – or die with it…?

 

Highly Commended – Verda Beech by Rosie Sutcliffe

Catherine Wild: For its adherence to the brief and effective message.

Verda Beech is a young biology teacher, working in her local secondary comprehensive school, well liked by her students, she is fun, creative and her lessons are lively, unusual, often packing a strong environmental punch, wherever possible. During the working day, Verda inspires her students to think ethically and care about other living beings. She is a strong, statuesque woman in her late twenties, with long light brown hair and striking green eyes.

Weekends and holidays see Verda travelling to destinations where animal species are under threat or danger where she tackles both individuals and huge multi national companies in her valiant attempts to save these creatures.

When on her rescue missions Verda has a costume comprising a green shirt, with lace up front, brown trousers and brown boots, which could be from any era throughout history, this costume, however, has the ability to change, chameleon-like to match its surroundings, giving it a near invisible quality.

It is also adaptable to any environment, cool in steamy jungles, warm in the freezing artic, dry after swimming.

Verda’s powers include a telepathic ability to understand and communicate on a basic level with animals, resulting in great empathy which drives her to fight for them. She has some healing abilities, is highly intelligent, perceptive and can detect weaknesses in an enemy and use it against them. Verda is proficient in self defence, though prefers to use her wit rather than her considerable strength to defeat her adversaries.

Enemies include hunters, whalers, logging companies, huge building corporations, battery farmers, bear bile farmers and similar.

Verda had a relatively ordinary childhood, although from an early age she recognised a close connection with animals. Her main flaw is that she can be too trusting.

Her aim – to banish animal cruelty worldwide.

Della Galton – New Novella Series The Reading Group

reading-group-bookends-2The Reading Group focuses on five women who meet monthly to drink wine, have nibbles, gossip and – oh yes – discuss the classics.

In December they are reading A Christmas Carol and Grace’s life seems to be taking a curious parallel to Dickens’ classic story! Spooky!

In January they are reading Jane Austen’s Emma – and this time it’s Anne Marie who’s the focus of the story. Like Emma, Anne Marie fancies giving Cupid a run for his money. But matchmaking isn’t really her forte!

In February they are reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Oh and Kate has a handsome builder in renovating her kitchen. Hold on to your hats, ladies.

In March, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is the book of the month. Jojo has a new man in her life. She is starting to worry that there may be certain parallels between her life and Daphne du Maurier’s heroine. Age gap romance and ancestral homes spring to mind.

December, which is a short story, is free for your kindle. You can download it HERE.

If you’d rather read the December story on paper it’s also in the January edition of the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, which is out now.dellagaltonsmall

Each novella in the Reading Group series is 99p. Less than the price of a mince pie and guaranteed not to make you fat. I wish I hadn’t written mince pie. Now I’m going to have to eat one.

I asked Della a couple of questions regarding the writing of a series:

Q: Did you know the characters’ endings when you started?

A: No, although I did know some elements of the plot because of the nature of the project.

Q: And how were you able to plan for that across a set of six books eg if a character’s story ends in book six were you able to sow the seeds of that ending way back in book one?

A: I’m not er hem – a planner. I don’t plan. I just head off in a direction. In this series it was no different. I sowed some seeds and then I had to resolve them. This got harder as the series progressed.

Interestingly though, I find that the limitations set by working like this are helpful to me. Because very often I have to come up with creative endings that I would never have been able to plot out in advance. My brain just doesn’t work like this. There does have to be a story arc but I also rely heavily on themes. One of the main themes in this series is Friendship. Family is there also, and so is Love.