Barry Cunningham – Tuesday 13th September

‘Take Risks with your Writing’ advised Barry Cunningham at the launch of Hampshire Writers’ Society.
Barry Cunningham OBE, famed as the ‘discoverer of JK Rowling’, launched the Hampshire Writers’ Society on Tuesday evening, September 13 at the University of Winchester, with his talk, What Makes a Good Children’s Book.

A packed room of more than 80 aspiring and published writers listened intently as he talked about meeting JK Rowling, who had the necessary passion to write the incredible Harry Potter story even if it were never to be published. He stressed the difference between writing for the excitement of creating a great story and writing only with the goal of publication.’ These are separate ambitions. The former is the goal of the true writer. Being published is a random act’.

He continued, ‘The key to writing a good children’s book is the ability to use your imagination to meet the imagination of the child. Have a good grasp of the characters and their dialogue. A hole in the plot is always fixable. Use humour. This is what made Harry acceptable to so many readers’

He commented that ‘the blend of English humour…laughing at adversity, builds tension, diffuses anxiety and deepens and extends the emotion that we have for the main characters’.

He spoke of the successes of Cornelia Funke and Roald Dahl, who were the secret friends of children, holding their hands through their books yet encouraging readers to stand up for themselves. He encouraged writers to include food in their stories. ‘Children love to know what’s for tea. It anchors the story’. And, he said,’ believe in valour’.

He confessed that he was in awe of people who finished a book. But his offer ‘to help you achieve your goal, won a standing ovation.

Dr Joy Carter, Vice Chancellor of the University of Winchester, commented ‘Hampshire is a county with huge resources of creativity and the launch of the Hampshire Writers’ Society will allow much of that creativity to flourish in a new and expressive way’.

The Hampshire Writers’ Society, a fledgling of the Winchester Writers’ Conference, which is held annually at the University of Winchester, has launched a hugely successful season of talks by professional authors, poets, playwrights, literary agents and commissioning editors. These include Jack Sheffield, author of seven books in the Teacher, Teacher series, published by Transworld; poets, Tom Master, Mark Rutter and Peter Dixon; crime fiction author, Lindsay Ashford; Beverley Birch, Senior Commissioning Editor, Hodder Children’s Books; Rebecca Shaw, author of the Turnham Malpas/Barleybridge Village series; Sophie King, both fiction and non-fiction author; Ali Sparkes, author; Professor Patricia Duncker, on the subject of Choosing English; and concluding next June with an Evening Party and tour of the Chawton House Study Centre followed by a talk on crime fiction.

Dynamic’, ‘welcoming’, ‘a definite asset to struggling writers’, ‘eager for the next meeting’, re-doubling my writing effort’ were the conclusions of attendees.

Barbara Large

PS. Follow the link to read HWS member, KM Lockwood’s recent post, ‘I’m just wild about Barry…’ on her website.

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